Starring the voices of Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe, Brad Garrett, Alison Janney, Geoffrey Rush, and lots of others!

Directed by
Andrew Stanton

Review by Mark Walters


Pixar knows how to make a good movie.  They've proven it time and time again with hits like TOY STORY 1 and 2, A BUG'S LIFE, and MONSTERS INC.  Their newest release FINDING NEMO is no exception.  This time the filmmakers take their adventure beneath the sea, providing their most interesting backdrop yet.  The story opens with a father and mother Clown Fish basking in the glory of their new underwater anemone (look it up) home.  The father, named Marlin (Brooks), is clearly pleased with their current situation, though we can see hints of him being somewhat sensitive.  His significant other, named Coral (Elizabeth Perkins), has just laid a nice crop of baby fish eggs, and suggests Nemo for one of the names.  Marlin reluctantly agrees to give one of them that name.  All looks good until tragedy strikes when a large menacing fish knocks out Marlin and devours Coral and her babies... all but one.  Marlin comes to, finding the unborn Nemo to be the sole survivor of the attack, and promises to never let anything happen to his now only child.  Cut to sometime later, where the enthusiastic Nemo is preparing for his first day of school.  We can see that Marlin is now extremely overprotective, and is reluctant to let Nemo leave his sight for even a second.  During his first day, during a show of defiance, Nemo is snatched up by a diver right before his father's eyes.  Thus begins a deep sea adventure, in which Marlin will stop at nothing to rescue his only child.  Along the way he meets Dory (DeGeneres), a hyper blue colored fish that suffers from a rather extreme case of short-term memory.  Dory agrees to help Marlin, despite forgetting who he is every few minutes.  During their quest they meet a group of sharks who have apparently sworn off fish in an Alcoholics Anonymous-esque meeting.  These guys are only the first of several interesting creatures our heroes encounter.  In the meantime Nemo finds himself placed inside a fish tank, which is housed within a dentist office in Sydney, Australia.  There he meets a few other captive fish, led by the ocean-born Gill (Dafoe), who also longs to return to his place of origin.  Gill has concocted a plan that will allow him and his friends to escape.  However that plan can't work without help from little Nemo.  To make matters worse the dentist is planning on handing over Nemo to his hyperactive and just plain scary daughter.  Sound familiar?  Think TOY STORY.  So the story goes on, following the heroics of Marlin and Dori, along with poor little Nemo's race against time.

FINDING NEMO is like an exciting road trip film, where the plot isn't as important as the events taking place along the way.  The story is setup quickly, and we spend most of our time following the excitement that Marlin and Dori get themselves into.  The film is best when we're in the ocean.  The fish tank scenes are fun, but slow things down a bit by comparison.  If FINDING NEMO suffers from anything at all, it's an abundance of goofy characters to keep up with.  We barely have time to finish laughing at one outrageous scenario before we're met with another onslaught of eccentric personalities.  The great thing is it's all fun, and the visuals are nothing short of amazing.  I saw the film with a theater full of young kids.  While there are a few genuinely scary scenes, the film keeps things pretty fun, and both kids and adults should have a very good time.  You'll recognize a variety of voices as well.  Brooks is endearing as Marlin.  We feel his sincere angst over the loss of his son, and truly want to see him succeed.  DeGeneres is hilarious as Dory.  The short-term memory gag never gets old, and she even gets a chance to show some unexpected emotion.  Willem Dafoe provides an interesting sound for Gill, and finally gets a chance to be somewhat of a good guy for a change.  You might not recognize Geoffrey Rush voicing the pelican named Nigel, but he nevertheless does a great job.  I was very impressed with the vocal talents of Alexander Gould and his performance of Nemo.  Casting children's voices can be tricky, and Gould just plain nailed it.  Many memorable characters, like a surfer-dude sea turtle named Crush and a clingy starfish named Peach (Allison Janney), will undoubtedly make an impression.  At 101 minutes the film seems just a hair long for a Pixar flick.  Though I'm not sure if it's attached to all prints, we were treated to a cute short film made in 1989 by Pixar, that despite it's dated style was quite entertaining.  FINDING NEMO is a terrific addition to Pixar's impressive library.  Fans of their other films will certainly not be disappointed.  Parents might want to consider a few scary moments before bringing very young children, but adults should definitely have a good time.  I suggest sitting through the credits.  There are no bloopers this time, but you will see some nice encore moments from the film's characters, and even a surprise cameo by another Pixar favorite.

Images copyright DISNEY 2003. score - On a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the best, I give FINDING NEMO an 9.

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