Finding Nemo (2003)
Ebert: Rolling Stone:1/2 TV Guide:1/2
Warning, minor plot points revealed!
I don't go see a lot of animated movies at the theatre. I like watching them but I can usually wait to rent them on DVD. However, Finding Nemo seemed to become some sort of cultural spectacle this summer so I felt obliged to become part of the it. Not a day has gone by since it's release 9 weeks ago that I haven't heard it mentioned in some form of media. A few weeks ago it surpassed the Lion King as the highest grossing animated film in history (over $320 million so far.) It also knocked my precious Matrix Reloaded into the 2nd place spot for summer box office gross.
I love the new computer animated films. I love the super realistic ones like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and The Animatrix: Final Flight of the Osiris, and I love the cartoony ones like the two Toy Story movies, A Bugs Life, Ants, Shrek, and Monsters Inc. I like the multi-level comedy that allows an adult to enjoy the film as much as a kid but for different reasons. Although I didn't think it was any better than the films I just mentioned, Finding Nemo is a funny movie that's well worth the price of an afternoon matinee ticket.
After his mother and all of his unhatched brother and sisters are eaten by a barracuda, Nemo is raised by his over-protective father Marlin. On his first day of school (fish...school...ha!) Nemo wanders out into the open water and is immediately captured by a reef diver / dentist from Sydney Australia. The rest of the film documents Marlin's epic search for his lost son and Nemo's escape attempts from the dentist office aquarium. Along the way Marlin encounters Dory, a fish with no short term memory, a group of vegetarian sharks who reminded me of that group of Loony Tunes cats that Sylvester joined to try and break his Tweety Bird eating habit. He hitches a ride on the back of a surfer-dude sea turtle and both he and Nemo are assisted by a friendly Pelican. At the dentist office the aquarium fish are lead by Gill who decides Nemo is perfectly suited for his recently imagined escape plan and if Nemo does not succeed he will most certainly be killed by the dentist's horrible little niece.
There's not much I can say about the special effects since the entire movie is basically one big computer generated image but they (the programmers and designers at Pixar and the other digital animation studios) are really getting good at their craft. I read that the director of Nemo required many of the artists to log a significant number of dive hours so that they could accurately portray the underwater environment that dominates most of the film. I'm certain that subsequent viewings of the film will provide even more details that I missed the first time.
The voice actors all do a really great job and for the people who's voices you recognize the animated characters take on many of their features, gestures, facial expressions and mannerisms. It only takes a few minutes for you to accept that Albert Brooks is Nemo's clownfish dad Marlin and forgetful Dory the the blue tang is Ellen DeGeneres. As soon as Gill opens his mouth in the fish tank you know that Nemo is in the protective custody of Willem Dafoe and if you really know your voices you'll realize that the kindly Pelican is Geoffrey Rush.
Since the movie's been out all summer and most people in America have seen it a couple times already I won't prattle on anymore. Suffice to say it is a great film that the whole family can and will enjoy. I loved it and you will too! Go see Finding Nemo again and again. Maybe it can break the billion dollar mark by the end of the year!