Pixar has done it again. First it was forgotten toys, then bugs, then the monsters under your bed. With their latest release, Finding Nemo, Pixar has made another mysterious world into something magical. I have no doubt that when it's Labor Day weekend and we're looking over our shoulder at the summer movies that were, the little fish movie, Finding Nemo will stand out as one of the best.
Finding Nemo is the story of a clownfish named Marlin who is looking for his son, Nemo, who has been captured by a diver on the Great Barrier Reef. As with nearly all Disney movies, the mother dies in the very beginning, and our hero picks up a "comic relief buddy" who is cute but somewhat irritating. In this case, the buddy is a blue surgeon fish named Dory who suffers from short-term memory loss. The story continues according to formula: Marlin and Dory have several adventures including run-ins with sharks, jellyfish, and a whale, and they learn to work together, blah blah blah. But there is a great deal more going on in this movie that allows it to overcome its formulaic roots.
First of all, the film has a clear focus and delivers two important messages:
- It is better to live and learn than to spend your life completely isolated from the world and also
- Ocean life is something to be respected: fish and turtles have families too and do not exist merely to be pets or food
Now, while both of these points are a little on the obvious side, consider for a moment the majority of messages kids (the target audience of this film) receive:
- Whoever screams the loudest gets the most candy, and
- If you do something bad, don't get caught
Kudos to Finding Nemo for delivering mature messages in such an adorable package.
The second wonderful thing about this movie is that the characters are incredibly well thought out! The adventure through the ocean is all the more fun and exciting when you honestly can't wait to meet the next kooky sea creature! Additionally, the writers clearly made an effort to integrate a particular creature's real-life behavior into its personality. The shrimp is obsessed with cleaning his fish friends, the octopus squirts ink when he gets scared, and the Hitchcock-esque seagulls look for food in a pack. A movie with nutritional value! I love it!
The voice talent was also superb. Ellen Degeneres was absolutely hilarious as Dory, the "buddy fish." In a scene which I can only describe as "the whale speak scene" I laughed so hard I cried and Willem DaFoe does the best brooding angel fish I've ever, errr, heard?
And of course, the animation… oh, the animation. It's Pixar, c'mon, they breathed life back into an industry wheezing under the weight of it's own mass-replicated legacy. You could watch this movie wearing earplugs and still enjoy it! They have everything little fish movement and ocean ripple down to a "t." There were even a few moments when I had to stare, really really stare hard to determine that the shot was animated and not live action.
Finding Nemo is honestly a film for everyone. Children under the age of four may be a little scared by the sharks, but, I don't think four year olds want to sit still for a 100 minute movie anyway. I loved Finding Nemo: the story was funny and from the heart, plus it had a good message. The animation was great, and the whole movie really made me feel good from start to finish.