Pixar Palooza V: Finding Nemo

After their last film lost the first ever best-animated picture award to Dreamwork’s “Shrek,” (yes, really) Pixar returned in force with their award-winning fish flick, “Finding Nemo.”

Directed by Andrew Stanton, “Finding Nemo” is Pixar’s fifth animated film and was the first of many Pixar movies to win an Oscar for best-animated picture.

The promotional poster for Pixar’s “Finding Nemo.”

Upon initial release, critics and casual moviegoers fell in love with this movie. Famed film critic, Roger Ebert, gave the film four stars, and it scored an impressive 99 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

However, does it truly live up to the praise of its fans? Well let’s put on our metaphorical scuba masks and take a look.

Marlin (Albert Brooks) is a Clownfish who lost his wife and all but one of his children to a vicious undersea predator. Because of this traumatic tragedy, he is understandably overprotective of his only surviving son Nemo (Alexander Gould).

Nemo, Marlin’s energetic son.

Marlin promises never to let anything happen to his boy, but on Nemo’s first day of school, he is seized by Australian Divers and taken to a dentist’s office in Sydney (P. Sherman 42 wallaby way Sydney to be exact).

The scene were Nemo gets caught by the divers. (YouTube)

There he meets a colorful cast of celebrity cameos who attempt to help Nemo escape the fish tank and return to the ocean before he is given to the dentist’s niece Darla, who is notorious for accidentally killing her pet fishes.  

Meanwhile, Marlin searches the ocean relentlessly for his son. Along the way, he encounters Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), an eccentric blue tang fish who suffers from short-term memory loss. Together the two encounter massive sharks, sea turtles straight out of the 60’s, a forest of jellyfish and many more perils on their journey to rescue Nemo before it’s too late.

Marlin meeting Dory for the first time. (YouTube)

What really makes this movie, believe it or not, is the visuals of the ocean. Now I know it’s pretty much an understatement to praise Pixar for its stellar CG animation, but my word “Finding Nemo” has such an atmosphere.

The look and feel of the sea is so colorful and expansive, all the dramatic or action-packed moments become all the more exhilarating, practically leaping off the screen. This is a movie that I would absolutely pay to see rereleased on the big screen.

I also admire how Pixar took more risks with this movie than any of their previous films in terms of what they can get away with. Topics such as the death of a loved one, loneliness, losing your child and letting your child go are all touched upon and handled with grace and dignity. It’s a film more aimed towards parents, which is quite rare for an animated movie.

Marlin attempts to console Dory. (Screen capture)

The characters as well are all very likable and are given moments to shine. Marlin and Dory work off each other rather well, which results in some truly funny and surprisingly dramatic moments.

Marlin’s overprotective parent arc is the emotional heart of the film, offering a powerful message that’s meant more for adults rather than children. Dory, who very well could’ve been the Jar Jar Binks of this film, is never overused and remains a very fun, memorable side character.

Now typically, an overabundance of celebrity voices in animated movies can become something of a crutch.

Sometimes it’s not too distracting if the characters are written well like in “Prince of Egypt.” Other times it can totally suck you out of the story like in “Shark Tale,” “Bee Movie” and cinematic dumpster-fire “Food Fight.”

Fortunately, that is not the case in “Finding Nemo,” as the celebrity cameos in the fish tank were all pretty well acted and were the cause of many of the film’s greatest chuckles. And while the pacing does somewhat linger and some of the jokes don’t always hit, there’s still enough charm and even a little suspense to keep you hooked.

Finding Nemo’s “Fish Tank” scene. (YouTube)

Also minor note, but it would be criminal not to mention the Iconic shark sequence. Bruce the shark remains one of the best and most underrated characters Pixar has ever animated. The scene in which he takes Marlin and Dory to his lair, only to reveal that it is a drug rehab-style support group remains one of my all-time favorite scenes in any animated movie.

What else is there to say, it’s one of Pixar’s most polished and heartfelt movies to date and there’s a reason it’s one of the best-selling DVDs in the United States alone.

The official trailer for “Finding Nemo.” (YouTube)

From its breathtaking visuals to its sharp sense of humor, all tied together with a strong moral, “Finding Nemo” is a certifiable classic that’s fun and fast-paced for kids with thought-provoking themes and ideas for adults. I’d say see it if you haven’t, but chances are you already have.

9/10

Samuel J. Claude
Associate Editor

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