Finding Nemo (2003)
Starring: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Willem Dafoe, Allison Janney, Vicky Lewis, Brad Garret, Geoffrey Rush, Barry Humphries, Eric Bana, Alexander Gould
Directed by: Andrew Stanton
Released by: Walt Disney Pictures
Synopsis: After losing both his wife and his other children clown fish Marlin (Albert Brooks) is now an over protective father to his only son Nemo (Alexander Gould). When Nemo is kidnapped Marlin embarks on a journey as epic and wide as the sea itself, meeting an unlikely partner named Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) in the process.
Review: Back in 2003, I became obsessed with this film. When I entered the theater, I was expecting a good Pixar film as always. But when it was over I realized that it wasn’t just a good Pixar movie, it was the greatest thing I had seen all year. Soon I became obsessed with the movie, watching it constantly when it came out on home video and trying to get as much merchandise as possible. For the longest time, Finding Nemo was my all-time favorite Pixar movie. It’s story and characters stayed with me long after the credits began to roll and it’s universe is one of the best realized in any kind of motion picture.
To me, Finding Nemo marks the beginning of a new, daring Pixar. Their stories would become more complex from then on, diving deep into complicated emotional issues to create engaging characters that were easy to root for while still being realistically flawed. The movie doesn’t even begin on a bright note as we see firsthand why Marlin is so overprotective of his son. It’s a scene that goes by quickly, but leaves the most impact in the audience. Once the film starts it doesn’t let go of its emotional values, with each character we meet bringing a new point of view that adds a lot of depth to the story.
That’s not to say that Finding Nemo isn’t a fun movie. It’s a movie you can watch again and again (something I did as I explained at the start of this review) and still enjoy. The pacing is top notch, delivering over an hour and a half’s worth of content without ever slowing down. Even when the movie feels episodic in nature all scenes fit the main narrative perfectly. Each scene stands on its own in terms of comedic value and storyline, showing us some of the most unforgettable characters ever committed to film.
Marlin is magnificently voiced by Albert Brooks, bringing to him nervousness to his character while still being an earnest father that just wants the best for his son. He is never grating, maintaining his likability even during the darkest scenes. Nearly the entire supporting cast are scene stealers, each shining through in their respective scenes. Ellen DeGenere’s Dory is superb as a comic relief character, once again bringing a great balance between a solid characterization and goofy antics. You will fall in love with this little blue fish. The other characters such as Geoffrey Rush’s Nigel the pelican, Willem Dafoe’s Angel fish Gill and even Vicky Lewis’s Deb are amazing as comic supporting characters. Finding Nemo easily has the best ensemble cast out of all the Pixar films, doing the film’s incredible narrative justice while never being superfluous.
The visuals are Finding Nemo’s best assets. As I stated at the start of this review, it features one of the most beautiful digitally created films ever. The sea can be a strikingly beautiful and even frightening place in the real world, and the digital wizards at Pixar have done an amazing job in recreating that natural beauty. The colors simply pop out of the screen in its rich detail and carefully constructed structure. The fish characters are authentic, staying true to their anatomy while practicing Walt Disney’s belief of the plausible impossible. It is common knowledge that fish can’t talk nor have blinking eyes. Yet, the animation in Finding Nemo makes that thought a possibility in that the fish are cartoon characters, yet act and move like real fish would. It’s this level of dedication that has made Pixar one of the most respected in the entertainment industry.
Finding Nemo’s soundtrack is simply beautiful. Composed by Thomas Newman, the soundtrack adds to the already heavy story with themes that evoke fear, love, happiness, weirdness and sheer joy. It expresses the calm yet eerie nature of the sea, becoming a character in itself. Finding Nemo would only be topped by Michael Giachinno’s score for Up, and even then it still remains a wonderful soundtrack.
Typically, I would talk about a film’s flaws here, but Finding Nemo is a rare case in which the film presents very few flaws. It flows perfectly from beginning to end while giving us a profound father/son story, set in one of nature’s most amazing creation: the sea. Finding Nemo has more than earned its legacy as one of the best films ever created. If my top two favorite Pixar films, Ratatouille and Up, had never been released, Finding Nemo would still be my top favorite Pixar movie. It doesn’t matter than the movie is about cartoon fish, Finding Nemo has a great story that resonates with anyone who has ever loved a child and has done anything to make them happy.
Rating: 5 filmstrips out of 5