Pixar Studios have a problem; how are they going to top the success of A Bug’s Life, Toy Story 1 & 2 and Monsters Inc? Simple, make Finding Nemo. The story is the usual simplistic one that crosses all Pixar films –ant finds army to save home, toys trying to get home, monsters trying to return kid home and now a fish tries to bring his son home. However, the attention to detail and the method of telling the simple story is what sets the standards so high.
Clown fish Marlin (Albert Brooks) is a doting father to his son Nemo (Alexander Gould). Marlin is a little too over protective due to an incident before Nemo was hatched and therefore refuses to let Nemo out of his sight for too long.
Marlin’s worst nightmare come true one day when Nemo ventures out into the ocean too far and lands himself into the net of a diver. Before Marlin can get him out, Nemo is whisked away to Sydney and into a dentist’s fish tank.
Marlin sets off desperate to rescue Nemo and manages to get a tag-along on the way in the shape of a dippy, forgetful blue Tang called Dory (Ellen DeGeneres). So begins a journey of sprit, friendship and adventure.
Finding Nemo is packed full of wit, clever writing and stunning images. All the Pixar trademarks are in full effect – the voice of John Ratzenberger (Cliff from Cheers) makes an appearance, cameo appearance from Buzz Lightyear and other items from Pixar films (Pizza trucks etc) and a host of crazy creatures popping up in the background.
Each character is fully fleshed out from the insane slightly crazy fish that have been in the dentist’s tank a little too long and have lost the plot to the brilliantly rendered characters that Marlin and Dory meet on their journey. Cameos include Eric Bana, Elizabeth Perkins, director Andrew Stanton (as a groovy stoner turtle called Crush), Geoffrey Rush (as Nigel, an eccentric Pelican), William Deafoe (as Gill, the leader of the fish tank gang) and Barry Humphries (as a fish-loving shark called Bruce).
Bruce the shark and Nigel the pelican are two of the funniest characters onscreen and manage to steal every scene that they are in. Other stand-outs are characters such as the fish obsessed with bubble coming from a tiny treasure chest in the bottom of the fish tank, to the crazy crabs and single-mined, but very dim seagulls. The three sharks that decide to form a chapter of Fish Eaters Anonymous are hilarious. John Ratzenberger pops up as a number of voices but is brilliant as an entire school of fish that do impressions. Speaking of crazy characters, remember to beware of octopuses with ink-bladder control issues.
The key roles of Marlin, Nemo and Dory are very well played. Albert Brooks’ voice is perfectly suited as an anxious, neurotic and overly protective clown fish – his pained persona translates exceptionally well to a fish for some reason. Nine-year old Alexander Gould is enthusiastic and does a great job as Nemo. The most surprising is Ellen DeGeneres as Dory. Unlike her highly overrated performances on her TV show (where the constant mugging at the camera is irritating at best) she manages to generate more laughs in the first few minutes onscreen than ever before. Her endearing character makes an excellent contrast to Marlin’s neurosis-ridden one.
Visually the film is stunning. After Monsters Inc. it seemed that the animators reached a peak on that film, but this time round they surpassed themselves. The ocean that they created is teeming with colourful fish and bright plants. With the ocean being a murky place, the opportunity for creatures to pop out from the depth is used very well and to full effect. Also the skin of each of the characters is superb, with ripples long the bodies making the underwater world so much more believable. The attention to detail is phenomenon and the use of colour, form and lifelike movements of the creatures and backgrounds make the film a joy to watch.
There are some aspects of the film that might scare smaller children especially the opening scene and during Marlin and Dory’s odyssey into the darker depths of the ocean. Director Andrew Stanton always makes sure that there are enough ‘grown-up’ laughs to keep the adults happy which the kids will miss (after all why should the little people have all the fun?)
Finding Nemo is probably the best animated film in recent years and it ranks right up there with the previous four Pixar films. Forget the children; there is no need to pretend that they are the ones who want to watch it when deep down in your cockles (or even the sub-cockle regions) you know that you really want them to drag you along to the cinema for a change.
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