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Elemental movie review: Pixar’s well-meaning film comes loaded with social messages

Love may all be about fire and ice, attraction of opposites, and so on and so forth. But can Fire and Water actually fall in love? That is the premise of this Disney-Pixar film that is a love story but with many social messages, of following one’s dreams (always the bedrock of big animation), but also accepting differences, welcoming opposites, finding new homes, even accepting migrants: the people even arrive at Element City in “waves” on boats.

This is the New World, and they are coming here leaving the old one behind, while carrying the flame for it, of course. One such family is Ember Lumen’s, whose father immigrated to Element City, found himself shut out from the more fancy part of town, with its water trains etc, as it was not built for fire people like them. He has now made a success of it in the form of a shop that supplies all things fire to people like them in their own version of Chinatown or Little India — lighter fluid for example, to calm restless children.

One day, a water guy called Wade Ripple washes up into Ember’s life, literally. Taught not to go to the unwelcome part of the big city, Ember is swept off her feet. Admittedly, so are we. It’s fascinating to see how imagining people as embodiments of elements is translated onto the screen, including a wind boss lady called Gale who crackles with lightning, an earth child called Clod who springs flowers out of his armpit to show Ember he is all “grown up”, and a Mexican wave of real water at a game of windball.

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Ember sees herself reflected in Wade, literally, and he melts at her sight, swimmingly. He cries buckets at the slightest emotion, she bursts in flames at the least provocation. The two of them do well enough without the burden the film keeps loading on them. It’s well meaning, but even the film seems to be just going through the motions.

“Embrace the light while it burns,” is alright. But the winning message here is simpler, when Wade and Ember touch and realise: “Love changes chemistries.”

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Elemental movie director: Peter SohnElemental movie cast: Leah Lewis, Mamoudou Athie, Ronnie Del Carmen, Shila Ommi, Wendi McLendon-CoveyElemental movie rating: 3 stars

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