HOLLYWOOD—I totally might be in the minority here, but I thoroughly enjoyed the animated feature “Elemental.” I know it has been panned by critics, but I suspect some of the critics failed to realize this is an animated flick. It is NOT supposed to make sense because animation is something outside the realm of reality. The flick is made for kids and it’s intended to be family friendly, which I felt from the start till the end. I found the themes of differences; love and family were potent throughout.
If you cannot tell what the movie is about based on the trailer or the teaser TV spots, it is about the various elements, fire, air, water and land that live in Element City. However, none of these elements really interact with one another, Fire sticks with Fire, Air with Air, Water with Water and Land or in this case Wood, sticks with Wood.
The animated flick focuses on Ember (voice of Leah Lewis) who works at her family’s shop led by patriarch Bernie (Ronnie del Carmen) and her mother Cinder (voice of Shila Ommi). Ember has a bit of a temper and it flares up quite often at times with the customers who her father explains are always right. Ember is tasked with the possibility of taking over the family business, but she knows her father has to fully trust her before handing over the rein of the company to her.
During a test of running the store by herself, Ember becomes overwhelmed with customers and blows her gasket literally that causes a pipe burst where water starts to flood the shop. It is here she meets Wade (voice of Mamoudou Athie), who happens to be comprised of Water. What’s the problem? Bernie is not a fan of the Water element, and neither is Ember who has been told her entire life the elements of Fire and Water cannot mix.
However, when Wade who is an emotional mess that cries to the tune of almost anything alerts Ember that her family’s shop will have to be shut down because of code and permit violations, the two begin to build a friendship that soon turns into a romance. They are both fighting against the relationship out of fear how others will perceive them ESPECIALLY in the public sphere. They only show their true feelings when they are with one another.
The biggest driving force of this flick is the bond between family and embracing differences. Ember has this fear of not living up to her parent’s expectations. At the same time, she is tasked with understanding that it is ok to embrace her differences and those of others as Wade teaches her a few things about life and the world in general. I would love to say the film delivers a ton of laughs, but not as many as I expected from a Pixar flick.
It entertains without a doubt, but the levity of the flick seems stronger than most animated movies I have seen in recent years. The message the movie intends to push is a big one for kids in my personal opinion. They might understand it for those a bit older, but if the little ones are asking questions it’s not an easy conversation to broach, which I’m not 100 percent certain that was the goal of the filmmakers. I for one appreciated the flick because it was a quick 100 minutes, not something clocking in over 2 hours, which has become the norm for cinema nowadays. “Elemental” was a fun ride and will indeed entertain the kiddos, and hopefully teach adults a lesson or two about embracing differences.