review by Elias Savada,
30 May 2003
Nemo is another filmed-on-location animated beauty, teeming with
incredible underwater production values, saturated with tropical
colors, swimming with noble spirit, and awash with whimsical
delight. Andrew Stanton, a CGI veteran on all four Pixar/Disney
features and now first time director and co-writer, continues the
grand, award-winning and critically acclaimed tradition that has
made the Toy Story films, A
Bug's Life, and Monsters, Inc. instant comedy classics from the universe's (i.e., to
infinity and beyond) greatest animation partnership. Every impish
blink, every adorable dimple, every marvelously rendered drop of
water, every shadow-encrusted fleck of plankton, every computer
generated pixel, every heartfelt blemish, and nearly every line of
finely-etched dialogue combine to make number five an aquatic
treasure that will make Disney CEO Michael Eisner seriously consider
the economic consequences should his company not quickly renegotiate
a renewal of its distribution relationship with the incredibly
hard-working and triumphant boys and girls of Emeryville,
California. Coupled with its predecessors' blockbuster status, Nemo
will easily push the total world-wide ticket sales for
Pixar-produced/Disney-released works to over $2 billion.
It's obvious that the creative
talent behind this film has found inspiration in some of Disney's
own legendary library. Finding
Nemo opens with a barracuda attack that leaves one cold-blooded
creature a grieving widower and his future family of over 400 roe
decimated save for one single egg. It's a tragic, Bambiesque moment,
but the audience is not allowed to wallow in despair for more than a
few seconds, although the event does delineate the lone adult
survivor's feature-length anxiety as a single, over-protective
parent of a rambunctious, school-age offspring. Who better to play
the Nervous Nellie clownfish than the eternally-anxious Albert
Brooks! His son, the eponymous Nemo, is filled with fearless
determination, despite a stumped appendage (or "lucky fin"
as his father constantly refers to it) by 9-year-old Alexander
In a clamshell, Finding
Nemo is the first underwater road movie. The basic set-up is
that Nemo, while on a school field trip to the edge of his
neighborhood, has been netted by a scuba-diving dentist. His dad,
Marlin, chases after the butt, er boat, that will land the youngster
in an office aquarium full of its own idiosyncratic briny prisoners
gloriously intent on escape to fresher waters. The film cross-cuts
between the two settings: the larger Great Barrier Reef, filled with
glistening shark teeth, a dangling platoon of stingy pink jellyfish.
a whale-size gulp right out of Pinocchio,
and a darkly hypnotic angler fish; and the methodical break out
plans hatched by the glassed-in denizens.
Easily, the pearl of this
ambitiously animated cast is Ellen DeGeneres as Dory, a
"naturally" blue tang fish who suffers from short term
memory loss. Dory's every utterance, every sublimely comic
expression raises the ocean's comedy level a few more inches. This
ditsy, cock-eyed optimist literally collides with the self-doubting
Marlin and the odd couple begin a yin-yang excursion for the
pint-sized Nemo (or Elmo or whatever Dory forgetfully calls him).
Millions upon millions of gallons of comic potential are thus mined
as they adventure forth.
Now, while we ostensibly have three
stars, the rest of the vibrant cast provides a salty froth of comic
foam. It's not only that the voices register so well, but how they
do so within the merry, mixed-ups caricatures that Andrew
Stanton, Bob Peterson, and David Reynolds have written into the
"roles." Let's talk a deeper look.
Humphries (a.k.a. Dame Edna), Eric Bana, Bruce Spence are three
sharks undergoing anger management therapy. (Four years in
production, how coincidental that Anger Management bypassed Nemo
in hoisting the amusing flag of this fretful condition upon us.)
"Fish are friends, not food," is their mantra. (There's
also a great in-joke here for fans who recollect the production name
given to the title character in Jaws.)
Allison Janney (West Wing)
is Peach, an ebay-purchased starfish and one of the half-dozen
guests in that Sydney aquarium. Others include Bloat (Everybody
Loves Raymond's Brad Garrett), a emotionally-triggered blowfish;
Bubbles (King of the Hill's Stephen Root), a effervesce obsessive yellow
tang; Newsradio's Vicki
Lewis is Deb, a black-and-white damsel fish caught in a reflective
tug-of-war with herself; Gurgle (Austin Pendleton), a bacillophobic
royal gramma; Jacques (Joe Ranft) a French cleaner shrimp; and their
brooding leader Gill (Willem Dafoe), a Moorish Idol fish. News of
the outside world (with Marlin's ocean mission humorously
transmitted via a game of telephone) is provided by Nigel (Geoffrey
Rush), a gossipy pelican who shares the tank gang's dental knowledge
of their warden's profession, having observed the dentist and his
patients ad nauseum. Even director Stanton has a memorable role as Crush, a
current-surfing dude of a turtle.
the more divinely inspired moments involves a very knowledgeable and
impressionable school of silvery fish (collectively voiced by Pixar
regular John Ratzenberger).
from the Jaws reference,
adult viewers with any sense of cinematic history will giggle at the
several Hitchcockian allusions: the arrival of the dentist's vicious
niece is cued by Bernard Herrmann's music from Pyscho,
while a distinctly visual reference borrowed from The
Birds plays fun with a flock of seagulls.
An added treat is the pre-feature
presentation of Knick Knack,
the 1989 precursor to Toy
Story about another water-bound escape by a snowglobe snowman.
One final reminder: wait through ALL the end credits, as most of the
cast has fun playing with the lengthy scroll of talent (and 43
production babies). Watch for a special "guest" appearance
by Mike Wazowski.
Pixar has raised the animation bar
once again. Finding Nemo
is nothing short of terrific.
G - General
All ages admitted.