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Finding Nemo (2003) – Review

4 Stars

Not only is Finding Nemo an absolute delight it is also a technical and artistic marvel. Marlin is a clown fish that has just moved into a new area of the enmity with his wife Coral. All is well until a shark attacks and kills Coral and the entire liter of eggs, save for one baby, Nemo. Cut to the first day of school for Nemo, and the hesitation of Marlin to let his son out of his sight. Of course the adventurous youngster gets caught by a fisherman off the Australian reef, thus setting up the parallel stories that occupy the majority of the running time.

One story thread follows Marlin’s adventure in rescuing his son. The other takes place in an aquarium that serves as the new home for little Nemo. In each we are introduced to some of the most memorable characters in the Disney/Pixar universe. Dory, voiced by Ellen DeGeneres is a fantastic sidekick, the gimmick of short term memory loss mixed with DeGeneres’ quick witted line delivery are constantly chuckle inducing.

Other notable characters include Bruce the Shark, no doubt named after the moniker given to the mechanical shark used in Jaws, who is going through a 12 step program to stop eating fish. Along with Willem Dafoe’s subtle mocking of his role in Platoon, as fish that is king of the aquarium but always looking for a new angle to escape the tank. But my favorite addition is a sea Turtle named Crush, voiced by director Andrew Stanton, who gives the animated creation a surfer dude vocal pattern, stealing the show in the process.

Even seemingly throw away bits like a flatulent pelican, and Boston accented lobster are gems, speaking to the level of thought, care and imagination invested into this wonderful film. The end credits are fittingly capped of by the incomparable Bobby Darin and his hit Beyond the Sea.

Director: Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich
Stars: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Willem Dafoe

One Response to Finding Nemo (2003) – Review

  • Has there ever been a better-looking feature-length animated film than `Finding Nemo’? We doubt it. With its shimmering underwater landscapes – be they in the vast immensity of a limitless ocean or the cramped confines of a dentist office aquarium – the film sports a look unlike anything we have ever seen before. The fish tank setting, in particular, is a veritable wonderland of eye-popping, many-hued visual splendor.

    Although the script by Andrew Stanton doesn’t scale the comedic heights of, say, `Aladdin,’ `Shrek’ or `Toy Story 2,’ it still sparkles with enough wit and inventiveness to entrance youngsters and beguile the grownups who will be joining them in their viewing. I hasten to point out that the screenplay is blessedly free of all the double entendres and off-color humor that have blighted so much alleged `kiddie’ fare in recent years. This is a film on e can watch with one’s children and grandchildren and not once have to blush or turn away in embarrassment while doing so. Creators of children’s films please take note (and take note, too, of its phenomenal box office take).

    Like many tales designed for the junior set (`Dumbo,’ `Bambi’ etc.), `Finding Nemo’ taps into the fear all children have of being separated from their parents – and the concomitant fear all parents have of being separated from their children. It is upon this common ground that members of both generations will meet in their emotional response to this film. In this case, it is little Nemo, an adorable clownfish, who is plucked out of the ocean and plunked down into the saltwater aquarium of a dentist in Sydney, Australia. The subject of the film’s title is Marlin, Nemo’s overprotective, worrywart dad who swims his way towards the continent to find and rescue his little tyke. Along the way, this Nervous Nellie parent learns a little something about giving his son the freedom a boy needs to grow up and become a man, and Nemo, himself, learns a thing or two about just what kind of a fish his dad really is.

    Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres are brilliant as Marlin and Dory, respectively, the latter a befuddled, daffy and utterly good-natured fish who helps Marlin in his epic quest not only for his lost son but his own definition of filial love. Those familiar with these two fine comedic talents in their live-action performances will actually be able to see many of their distinctive inflections and facial expressions reflected in the animated characters they are portraying.

    As directed by Stanton and Lee Unkrich, and executed by an army of wonder-working animators and technicians, `Finding Nemo’ takes PIXAR technology to its ultimate, final level of perfection – till the studio’s next release, that is.