Animated Pixar Flick “Elemental” Runs Hot and Cold

Ironically, Peter Sohn’s Elemental (C-), in which the animated characters are allegorical and anthropomorphic elements of nature, is virtually chemistry-free. The story follows fiery, hot-tempered Ember (voiced by Leah Lewis) and go-with-the-flow liquid character Wade (Mamoudou Athie), who fall in love while helping avert a crisis in their murky metropolis. The two central characters in this misguided romcom are generally inert from their meet-not-so-cute opening moments until the point when their story is finally and mercifully extinguished. For a film as high-concept as this, the story, dialogue and voice acting are all quite basic; and attempted parallels to real-life don’t really land. Unlike WALL-E or Zootopia, for instance, there’s little discernible sense of time, place or genre. Frequent flashbacks simply prolong a tale that’s already treading water, and supporting characters lumber along rather aimlessly against hastily conceived backdrops lacking zest. Admirably, it’s one of the few Disney-Pixar movies which doesn’t rely on a pedigreed voice cast (save for a ho-hum Catherine O’Hara) for an immediate connection, but nobody in the ensemble adds any vocal vibrancy to this periodic tableau of mediocrity. After a largely charmless series of uninspiring episodes, there are a few mild sparks in the final act but not enough to give this not-so-golden-age entry any atomic weight.

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