Elemental REVIEW – One of Pixar’s Worst Films Yet


Elemental is a rom-com. Set aside the fantasy adventure elements for a while, Elemental is, first and foremost, a rom-com, and with it comes nearly every terrible rom-com trope in the book. If you hate the genre, this film isn’t for you, but even fans of this genre are going to be scratching their heads wondering why they’re not just watching a rom-com without any of this film’s fantasy adventure elements.

Set in a world where people are made of fire, water, earth, or air, Elemental follows Ember (Leah Lewis), a young fire girl who helps her dad run a shop. When her dad Bernie (Ronnie del Carmen) retires, Ember will be in charge, but a city inspector made of water named Wade (Mamoudou Athie) writes an ugly report that threatens the future of the shop. Ember must now do all she can to prevent her family’s shop from closing, but as she tries to do so, she finds herself unexpectedly falling for Wade.

You probably already see a big problem with this film’s screenplay — what is a story this mundane doing in a setting this fantastical? Sure, you could argue that Zootopia did a similar thing with it essentially being a buddy cop film, but Zootopia also arranged its plot to have multiple opportunities to explore the many things its animal-populated city had to offer.

Because these moments were integral to the plot, they never slowed down the pace. The characters being animals also played a huge part in the story, so much so that the characters just wouldn’t be the same if they were any other type of being.

In Elemental, the few times the film tries to boast the beauty of Element City, it feels less like you’re watching an essential part of the plot and more like you’re watching a travel commercial or a filmed grand tour. These scenes do nothing but slow the pace down. There’s also very little energy to them — with threadbare music and humdrum cinematography, they feel more like they’re there out of obligation instead of actually being interested in showing off this world.

As for the characters, it wouldn’t be completely true to say that Elemental would be the same story if it starred animals or aliens or even humans, but it’d be similar enough. The way this film plays around with the characters being fire, water, earth, and air feels superficial and superfluous.

Take, for example, how Ember’s flame explodes when she’s angry, or how an Earth character gives Ember flowers that he grows on himself. She gets impatient easily. He likes to give flowers. These aren’t difficult traits to translate to human characters, and because of that, Element City just doesn’t feel like a very inventive world.

There’s this aspect of how Ember and Wade can’t touch because they’ll put each other out if they do, but really, so what if they can’t? They can still talk and hang out. The stakes don’t feel high. This film wants us to believe that despite their opposing elements, Ember and Wade have a connection with each other, so regardless of whether they can touch each other or not, they’ll still have that connection.

Speaking of connections, Ember and Wade have such a boring romance. Their “connection” is mostly just Wade doing something cute and Ember smiling or vice versa. Elemental wants you to believe Ember and Wade are a perfect match because they’re, erm, nice to each other? There aren’t any real similarities between the two or real ways how their personalities work well together.

This is especially a problem because the film’s second half has all these proclamations of how amazing their love is, how they can’t imagine a future without each other, and I just don’t buy it.

Furthermore, this film loves its rom-com clichés. Have you seen 13 Going on 30? Sweet Home Alabama? La La Land? Then you’re already plenty familiar with what this film has to offer. To mention these clichés would be to spoil the film, but there’s a montage where Ember and Wade are going on cutesy dates and a (very generic) pop song is playing in the background. That alone should tell you what kind of clichés you’re in for.

This just makes me ask: why would a rom-com fan watch this when there are tons of other films that offer these same clichés? Why would they want to watch a rom-com film that constantly gets interrupted by all these fantasy adventure elements? There is, of course, Elemental also being an immigrant romance story, but surely Ember deserves a grander, more imaginative romance than this one.

Slow, boring, and uninventive, Elemental is one of Pixar’s least interesting films.

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Elemental wastes a fun premise with a hackneyed romance and an unimaginative screenplay, resulting in a trite and run-of-the-mill experience.