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Finding Nemo (2003)

September 6, 2010

9/10 Stubborn Guppies

Yet another stunning Pixar effort that broke me down like a weeping infant.

Finding Nemo is about a clown fish in the Great Barrier Reef whose seriously overprotective nature accidentally gets his only son captured by deep sea divers and subsequently put on display in a fish tank in a dentist’s office. But like any loving father, he sets out into the great blue yonder to get his boy back, makes some unlikely friends and companions along the way and gradually learns the many benefits that come with letting go and trusting others.

Man, I still have Cars, Monsters Inc., A Bug’s Life, The Incredibles and the first two Toy Storys to revisit, review and gush over and I’m already starting to sound like a broken record here. But since this movie is so damn good and there’s nothing I can do but reiterate the obvious, I present you with one more reason why Pixar can’t be touched.

So even though Pixar movies have always been visual stunners, this may very well be the cream of the crop. Nowadays, the Great Barrier Reef has taken on a sheer cornucopia of taupe-like shades thanks to a laundry list of reasons that all lead back to why humans suck and how Al Gore told us so, but believe it or not, litte Johnnie, the GBR was at one point in history a natural phenomenon that would blow out your retinas with colors and hues you didn’t even know were possible. And while Pixar’s animators continue to up their game in terms of the technicals, there is just so much to look at here from the sprawling species of fish who all bring something new to the table and the reef itself which looks more like something from outer space than a natural formation that’s home to such a large and amazing cast of characters. It’s one of those things that reminds you what a true wonder the ocean is in all its depths and no matter how masterfully the animators have come to manipulate humans, monsters and inanimate objects, they’re gonna have a tough time topping this one until they make a movie about double rainbows.

But as pretty as this is to look at, let’s face it, it’s all about the heart with Pixar.

Depending on the time of the month, I don’t consider myself to be much of a softy. Didn’t shed a tear when Jack the Human Popsicle sank to the bottom of the ocean, I managed to hold it together for the last ten minutes of Rudy, but I don’t know how these guys keep doing it ’cause I’m about to petition for complimentary Kleenex handouts inside the DVD cases. I mean, this is a movie about fish. I shouldn’t be crying about fish, I should be crying about humans. I should be eating fish. But when you know you have a good story, when you know how to tell it so that your audience almost immediately forgets they’re dealing with sea life and can envision themselves in the characters without thinking twice about it, when you can get to the core of what’s important in life and what really matters on a level that everyone can empathize with, that’s when you’ve reached a new plateau of sorts.

God, that moment towards the end where Nemo, caught in a fishing net with hundreds of other fish, looks to his father and says, “Dad, I can do this,” and his father – after making a habit of telling his son everything he can’t do – looks right back in the middle of this life-and-death situation and replies, “I know you can,” how in the hell does that not make you cry?

Beautiful stuff, folks. Absolutely beautiful.

And as wonderfully mature, poignant and funny the script is in driving the story along, the cast of characters and the out of sight voice actors here are really what bring it all together. The permanently neurotic Albert Brooks was a great choice to play Nemo’s permanently neurotic father, Marlin; Willem Dafoe is perfect as Gill, the closest thing this movie has to a Vietnam vet; and then there’s Geoffrey Rush, Brad Garrett, Allison Janney, Milton from Office Space, Dewie from Malcom in the Middle and John Ratzenberger (Pixar’s favorite actor of all-time apparently) all playing their aquatic alter egos, and they’re all just awesome.

But then there’s Ellen Degeneres as Marlin’s gung-ho confidant/resident amnesic blue tang (thanks, Google), Dory, and if there were ever a fish that I just wanted to hug, joke and go on amazing adventures with, it’d be her in a heartbeat. Dude, Ellen is one funny gal to begin with, she makes Dory so much fun, so heartfelt, and the journey really would have been lacking without her. Also pretty wild how much Dory actually looks like Ellen, at least in the mannerisms, only without her dancing over coffee tables and such.

It’s no Up, but after seeing it again and doing a terrible job of hiding my tear-filled doe eyes from my good buddy Fred (who was totally doing the same) during the whole last half-hour, I’m not surprised in the least that this got voted as The Best Pixar Movie a while back. Finding Nemo is gorgeous to watch, its universally affecting and its got some of the best characters in the entire Pixar canon moving it all along to boot. Like I said, can’t touch these guys.

And those seagulls were freakin’ hilarious.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. September 6, 2010 4:44 am

    Agreed. Awesome film, awesome emotional content, and I’ll admit to having a small weep right there at the end too. The bit when he thinks he’s lost Nemo is the most heartbreaking of all….

    • September 7, 2010 8:20 am

      That was a downer alright, especially when he ditches Dory after she pours her heart out to him, too. Man, tough life being a fish.

  2. September 6, 2010 9:50 am

    This movie has invaded my life in lots of ways – my car is an ESCAPE (wow, that’s spelled just like escape). And we call the GPS voice “Dorrie” because she has a tone of voice when she says “just keep driving” along the motorway that sounds like Dorrie saying “just keep swimming”. Great review.

    • September 7, 2010 8:21 am

      hahaha, i think i’d like driving a hell of a lot more if i had Dory coaching me along. very awesome.

  3. September 6, 2010 10:05 am

    Good to have you back! I was having snarky, vulgar review withdrawal! It was painful!

  4. September 6, 2010 12:24 pm

    its my favourite Pixar movie and im not afraid to admit it

  5. September 7, 2010 7:37 am

    There’s an interesting theory in comics art that there is some perfect meeting place between the abstract and the recognizable where empathy is magnified. I don’t really understand it all, but the basic idea is that we have, at best, abstract images of ourselves, and that we empathize best with abstract images that remind us of ourselves. When we see something too recognizable (e.g., human characters like Jack and Rose), our empathy is limited by our subconscious focus on what makes us us and them them. When we see something abstract but still recognizable (e.g., a slightly anthropomorphic fish), those differences are deemphasized, allowing us to relate to and emphasize with those characters on a much deeper level. And, if you go too abstract, then you don’t relate to the character any more than you relate to the kitchen table. The trick (and the art) is finding that sweet spot between abstraction and recognizability. Pixar has that down.

    • September 7, 2010 8:15 am

      Damn, what an awesome comment. Really interesting and you’re dead on in every aspect. Thanks for visiting and don’t be a stranger, dude. Good stuff.

      • September 22, 2010 1:56 am

        Agreed – what a perfect summation of not only this flick, but most of Pixar’s oeuvre. Though it’s not complete – they’ve also got brilliant writing, kickass vocal talent and stunning visuals on their side.

        I don’t think I’ve ever cried during a Pixar flick, though. It’s gotten a bit dusty at times, but that’s about it.

      • September 22, 2010 10:15 am

        Just admit it, dude. You bawled and you know it.

  6. September 7, 2010 3:20 pm

    Great Pixar movie and probably my favorite US animation to this day. Funny, touching, great universe, I loved it! It’s a 10/10 for me 🙂

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