Finding Nemo (2003)
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Review Date: May 20, 2003
Director: Andrew Stanton
Writer: Andrew Stanton
Producers: Graham Walters
Albert Brooks
Ellen DeGeneres
Alexander Gould
An overprotective single father-fish takes his son Nemo to school for the first time, but ends up losing him when a human fisherman nabs him while underwater. Crushed by the loss of his son, the dad sets out to find him with the help of a dim-witted, but always optimistic, sidekick. Meanwhile, Nemo is stuck in a dentist office's aquarium and tries to get back to the sea himself. Will the father/son ever reunite?
I don't know what it is about animation movies nowadays, but it seems as though the bar is always being set a little higher with each new installment, especially when it comes to those nutty folks over at Pixar (TOY STORY, A BUG'S LIFE, TOY STORY 2, MONSTERS INC.). That's probably why I can't help but feel a little disappointed with this film, which in my humble opinion, turns out to be the weakest link in their repertoire so far. That's not to say that FINDING NEMO sucks or anything, in fact, it's funny in spots, the animation is gorgeous, the colors are bright, the voices are well handled and the resolution, somewhat emotional as per most such Disney flicks, but in the end, I can't say that I was ever either giddy with joy, cracking up all over the floors or glued to my seat. In fact, it felt a lot more like a "kid's movie" than their previous releases and despite a great pace and a handful of funny lines, it ultimately didn't leave me with any major imprints (although parents might relate more since the message of the film has to do with protecting one's children). There was one particularly memorable sequence of fish discussing an "aquarium break" which was hilarious and very well executed, but other than that, most of the escapes, attacks and action sequences were fun, but pretty run-of-the-mill (nothing like the pie factory sequence in CHICKEN RUN, the door assembly line from MONSTERS INC or the great escape from TOY STORY 2). Furthermore, the underwater animation might blow some away, but seeing as I'm not much of a fan of the ocean in the first place, it didn't do all that much for me...although the stuff around the coral reef was pretty darn striking. What does make the film click for the most part though is the bickering between the two lead fish, voiced ideally by Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres.

Unlike some animated features, their actual human voices do not get in the way here, in fact-they serve to make the characters that much more indelible. Unfortunately, when it comes to quirky, memorable secondary characters (or even "villains" for that matter), the film doesn't really have many, other than one French shrimp who was funny, but wasn't given enough screen-time. One "character" who unfortunately did get too much screen-time, in my opinion, was the "California surf dude" sea-turtle, who simply could not have gotten on my nerves any more than he did. Wow. I use the word "dude" pretty frequently myself, but if it's even half as annoying as this bum's delivery, it's out like yesterday's newspaper! Bah. Also, other than a semi-surprise at the very opening of the movie, nothing much about the film's trajectory took me aback. It's a pretty straightforward story and unless you've been living under a rock for the past 100 years, pretty simple to figure out. The "obstacles" that got in the way were also pretty basic, with the shark sequence being the only one that truly stood out. I did like how they balanced two separate stories throughout the film though. I thought it might get a little boring with just the "underwater" stuff, so I was more than happy to spend some time with a handful of "domesticated" fish in a dentist's fishtank (one of whom was the great Willem Dafoe). But in the end, despite some great animation, a decent story, some witty repartee, chemistry between the two leads and a palpable resolution, I can't say that this movie was as exciting, original or captivating as many of its predecessors and would recommend it more to the toddlers (or the toddler in all of us), rather than us full-blown "adults". Great move on playing "Beyond the Sea" over the end credits though, as well as the nods to THE SHINING, TOY STORY and many other flicks. Sweet. PS: Is it me or does the teaser trailer for THE INCREDIBLES look like a blast!?
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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