Finding Nemo

a review by
Matt Ceccato


Disney and Pixar have been working together since Toy Story (1995).  This is their fifth collaboration and, just maybe, this is their finest.  Finding Nemo takes place almost entirely underwater, a world that screams "computer animation".  And Pixar delivers on that front, boy howdy.  You could just look at this film, without dialogue, and be transported to a place that is both magical and mysterious.  But happily, Pixar is more than just that.  We have a screenplay that rivals even the most serious live action art films; characters both tormented and humorous; action that surpasses anything animated in a while and the cutest undersea creatures ever to grace the silver screen.


Clownfish Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Coral (Elizabeth Perkins) have just found the perfect home in an anemone.  They are the expectant parents of forty children.  However, their real estate agent forgot to mention the barracuda problem in the neighborhood, and Coral and 39 of her eggs find that out the hard way.  Marlin is left to raise their last egg alone.  That egg hatches to be Nemo (Alexander Gould), a fish with a gimpy fin but a determined attitude to live life to his fullest.  On Nemo's first day of school, he is taken prisoner by an Australian dentist (Bill Hunter) after his new friends dare him to swim into open sea.  Marlin, of course, is devestated by this, so he takes to the open ocean to find his only son.


Along Marlin's way, he meets Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a blue tang with zero short term memory.  Dory could have been a refugee from Leonard Shelby's aquarium, but she doesn't have tattoos on her scales.  The two team up to find Nemo, and meet danger and humor at every turn.  One memorable escapade involves three sharks (led by Barry "Dame Edna" Humphries) that have formed a support group dedicated to not eating fish ("Fish are friends, not food!").  Another involves a dangerous swim through a family of jellyfish.  Meanwhile, Nemo is dumped in said dentist's aquarium, and meets fellow captives Peach (Allison Janey, a starfish), Bloat (Brad Garrett, a blowfish), Jacques (Pixar writer Joe Ranft, a snail) and Gill (Willem Dafoe making his feature voiceover debut as an angelfish), among others.  They all have hopes of escaping back to the ocean via the "porcelain express" (the toilet).  But the dentist has plans for Nemo: he's to be the gift to his niece, who just doesn't know how to take care of fish just yet.  Both parties have a friend in Nigel (Geoffrey Rush), a pelican who has a soft spot for fish in peril.


Again, this film is beautiful to look at.  We even return to the mouth of a whale some sixty years after Pinocchio.  The fish either zip or they gracefully swim.  Someone spent a lot of time looking at fish for this one.  It truly is a triumph of skill and imagination.  One particular scene involves a family of sea turtles (one voiced by the director, Andrew Stanton) swimming through a current and giving Marlin and Dory a helping fin.  The turtles play tag and have deep conversations.  Another scene depicts the trial of Nemo trying to jam the aquarium's filter so the dentist will be forced to clean the tank.  And both worlds meet the greedy seagulls.  These creatures bear a striking resemblance to Feathers McGrath from The Wrong Trousers and a one word vocabulary: "mine!"


If the film has any faults, it could be in the depiction of the sharks.  A shark must swim in order to stay alive.  And that's it, folks.  This film's heart is in the right place, and it beats strongly.  We have Animal Planet to teach us about what is under the sea and how they live.  Finding Nemo is a pure joy.  It's the kind of film you can either engage or turn off your brain to enjoy.  How many other films have done that?

Four Starfish.