Pixar-thon: Finding Nemo

Welcome to Part 4 of Pixar-thon, my 13 part mission to review all the Disney Pixar movies. Today we look at a movie that’s as big as the ocean itself, Finding Nemo.

The sea is a big and dangerous place, especially for a little fish. No one knows this better than Marlin, a neurotic clownfish living in the Great Barrier Reef. He learns the ocean is even bigger and scarier than he imagined when his son Nemo is kidnapped and he chases after him. Accompanied by a forgetful blue tang named Dory, the two run into a variety of other sea creatures and travel great distances with one goal in mind: to find Nemo and bring him back home. Meanwhile, Nemo finds himself miles away and too above sea level for comfort when he wakes up in a fish tank at a dentist’s office in Sydney. When he learns that said dentist plans to give him to his niece as a birthday present, the rest of the fish come up with a plan to escape into the Sydney Harbor where they will return to their homes in the ocean and reunite Nemo with his father.

I have been looking forward to doing Pixar-thon for a while now, but even when I first got the idea, there were three movies that I did not anticipate reviewing with much enthusiasm. This was the first one. The reason I dreaded reviewing Finding Nemo is because I knew I would be stumped. What can I say about this movie that hasn’t been said a million times over? It’s been almost ten years since it came out and almost every kind of praise one can think of has already been said by everyone and their grandmother. Sometimes when critics and audiences come to a mutual agreement and pile universal praise upon something, I tend to approach it with a little caution, weary that the overexposure will kill whatever appeal it might have had. Now I’m not usually one to bow to popular opinion. If I disagree with the general consensus, I’ll be the first to say it. But every once in a while something comes around that absolutely lives up to the hype. This is one of those things.

But what is it about this movie that resonates with everyone so strongly? My theory is that even though it was made in large part for children, Finding Nemo is the first Pixar movie, or one of the first kid’s movies for that matter, that fully acknowledges the parents watching. With Toy Story, there was a sense of nostalgia to it that awoken everyone’s inner child. Finding Nemo on the other hand spoke directly to the parents, because even though a kid might look at this as a really fun adventure, when you get right down to it, this is a story of a father going to great measures to find his lost son. The love that Marlin and Nemo have for each other is very believable, and the appreciation for each other that they develop during their respective journeys is very organic and authentic.

At the beginning, Marlin nearly loses everything except for Nemo, which explains his agoraphobic nature and why he’s so overprotective of his son. Traveling with Dory, a fish with a very intuitive nature despite having the memory of, well, a fish, teaches Marlin to be more trusting of his son and let him experience the world for his own instead of smothering him. Even when he runs into danger, he finds out that not everything bigger than him is out to eat him. Even Bruce the shark meant to befriend them at first, his frenzy just ended up being a freak accident. Likewise, during his time in the fish tank, Nemo realizes that the outside world is indeed dangerous and that everything Marlin did was for his own protection.  But unlike Marlin, who chose to spend his life hiding after losing his wife, Nemo tries to take matters into his own hands. As he bonds with the tank gang and partakes in his great jailbreak, he learns to fend for himself and proves to his father that he can be independent. At the end, they develop a mutual understanding of each other’s nature and their bond is only strengthened afterwards.

I know I’m parroting myself when I say this, but the animation is absolutely breathtaking. Now with Toy Story, the sole fact that it was fully CG was groundbreaking at its time, but this time around they took it way above and beyond. The vibrant colors and scenery are gorgeous. The tremendous amount of detail put into almost every shot is staggering, particularly with the hydrodynamics of this world. Visually and technically, I would say this is Pixar’s best to date. Equally beautiful is the music, a brilliant score that perfectly compliments the setting. It’s a very relaxing soundtrack by itself and thankfully it wasn’t ruined by a Randy Newman song. Instead they got his son.

So what it all comes down to that Finding Nemo is a wonderful feature that deserves all the praise that it receives. It strikes a perfect balance of entertainment, visual splendor and emotional investment that hadn’t been seen since the Disney Renaissance, and set the standard for not just Pixar, but nearly every animated family film that came after. Chances are you’ve already seen this, but if you haven’t, gather the kids and give it a watch. Or better yet, watch ‘til this fall when the movie gets re-released in 3-D.

I give Finding Nemo 10/10.

Five down, eight to go.

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