Sunday, June 2, 2013

Movie Review: Finding Nemo

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Characters, story, laughs, most of the animation
Cons: Don't even think about it
The Bottom Line
Strong plot, characters
Plenty of wonderful laughs
Yep, this one's perfect

"Nemo...That's a Nice Name."

A journey across the sea.  No, I'm not talking about a documentary.  Instead, I'm talking about Pixar's 5th classic, Finding Nemo.   Despite a serious prologue, this is a delightful comedy that will entertain adults and kids alike.

The first few minutes introduce us to Marlin (Albert Brooks), a clownfish.  He and his wife have just moved into an anemone with a few of the great drop off and are expecting their first batch of offspring.  But then a barracuda comes and kills the mom and all but one fish.  (No, really.  Trust me.  This is a comedy.)

All that takes place in the prologue and sets up the character of Marlin nicely.  As the story really gets into high gear, the one surviving child, Nemo (Alexander Gould) is getting ready for his first day of school.  Marlin has turned into an over protective father, afraid that something will happen to his son.

And something does happen.  In an attempt to look cool to his new friends, he swims out to touches a boat.  But on the swim back, he is captured by a diver and taken somewhere.  A desperate Marlin swims off after him and meets up with Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a fish with serious short term memory problems.  Together, the pair must deal with sharks, jellies, and other dangers and they try to track down Nemo.

Nemo, meanwhile, finds himself in a tank in a dentist's office.  Unfortunately, he's a birthday present for the dentist's niece, a young girl notorious for killing fish.  Will the fish in the tank come up with a way for Nemo to escape?  Will Marlin get there in time?

Sometimes, it is one character that makes a movie.  In this case, it is Ellen DeGeneres' Dory.  When we are first introduced to the character and her memory problems, I thought I would get tired of the jokes about her in a hurry.  That never happened.  In fact, I find her just as delightfully funny at the end of the movie as I do at the beginning.

Now that's not to say that the rest of the film is bad.  The story bounces back and forth between Marlin and Dory's journey and Nemo and his new friends and their efforts to escape the fish tank.  As a result, it never drags.  And some of the things that happen to them along the way are just genius like the sharks in a 12 step group to give up eating fish.  And I can't forget that we finally learn what it is seagulls say.  "Mine!  Mine!"  Every plot complication along the way not only provides some laughs, but also helps define the characters.

Once again, the gang at Pixar has done a perfect job selecting the voice cast.  In addition to those already mentioned, we've got the likes of Willem Dafoe, Brad Garrett, Allison Janney, and Geoffrey Rush in the cast.  But they truly become the characters.  I always forget who all is in this cast until the credit roll.  The only voice I recognize is Ellen DeGeneres, but I am able to forget that and enjoy Dory as she is.  Frankly, I can't imagine anyone else pulling that part off nearly as well as Ellen does anyway.  Her voice is perfect for the smart but forgetful fish.

The animation in this movie is a mixed bag.  The few human characters in the movie are still characters, although they don't look as bad as the humans in the first two Toy Story films do.  The underwater shots are breath taking.  Some of them cross the line and become art.  The above water shots are a bit more of a mixed bag; some look great and some really do show how limited computer animation still was.  But that's something I only notice for a few seconds as I immediately get pulled back into the story.

At the end of the day, the computer animation is secondary in Finding Nemo.  Yes, it looks great, but I rewatch it because I love the characters and laugh at the story.  And no, you can't have this copy.  It's mine!  Mine!  MINE!!!

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