Finding Nemo

Few things in life are better than making your kids happy. My four year old daughter, Allie, and I share a common love of movies. So when I asked Allie if she wanted to go see “Finding Nemo,” I knew the answer would be a resounding “YES”. With its phenomenal animation and heart-warming story, Finding Nemo is a resounding hit with this daddy-daughter combo.

First things first, 2-D animation needs to be regulated to the small screen. Pixar has redefined animation in the past with Toy Story, Toy Story 2, A Bug’s Life, and Monsters, Inc. Now, Pixar is just showing off with Nemo. How can one even argue that traditional animation is superior? If you still think that traditional animation is better, you can have my black and white television or my cassette player. Nemo’s underwater masterpieces are the greatest achievement in animation, period. Its CGI animation is so wonderful, it makes Toy Story look antiquated by comparison. After the jellyfish sequence, please try to disagree with me.

While superior in the animation competition, Nemo doesn’t match the heart and warmth of Toy Story 1 or 2. It comes close though. Finding Nemo is the story of a clown fish, Marlin (Brooks) and the search for his son, Nemo (Gould). The movie begins ominously as Marlin, his wife Coral, and a few hundred eggs are just becoming acquainted with their new home, an anemone. A few minutes later, all Marlin has left in the world is one fish egg that survived an attack by a barracuda. From that point on, Marlin, becomes an over protective dad who fears that something might happen to his boy, Nemo.

By the way, Brooks must enjoy playing slightly neurotic characters. If you could strap a fanny pack on Marlin, he would be very similar to Brooks’s character in The In-Laws. Anyways, back to the good Brooks movie.

On Nemo’s first day of school, he is captured by a scuba diver and taken aboard a boat while Marlin frantically tries to save his son. As Marlin searches, he swims into, literally, the highlight of the movie, Dory (Degeneres). Dory, along with her short term memory problems, befriends Marlin and helps him on his search. On their way to Sydney (where Nemo was taken), they encounter three reformed sharks, jellyfish, a whale and a cowabunga speaking sea turtle, Crush. No word yet on whether Crush has any ninja skills or if he likes pizza.

During Marlin’s journey we see one of animation’s most visibly stunning scenes ever; the jellyfish. As Marlin and Dory approach the trench, Marlin decides to swim over it against the advice Dory shared and quickly forgot. As they swim over the trench, thousands of jellyfish descend into the shot. What else can I say about the CGI? I was blown away. I found myself staring at what appeared to be a Discovery Channel special on underwater life. (To think I was playing Frogger just 20 years ago and computers can now do this!)

Meanwhile, Nemo finds a new home in a dentist office’s aquarium. In the aquarium, Nemo meets several underwater creatures in the aquarium but the only standout character is Gil (Dafoe), a fish who has tasted the freedom of the ocean and yearns to return. Dafoe has the ability to command a scene even when he is animated! While Marlin is coming to Sydney to save Nemo, Gil and Nemo attempt to escape back to the ocean.

Some will complain that Finding Nemo uses the same formula as its Pixar predecessors. So what?? Having a formula alone doesn’t guarantee a good movie. George Lucas has a formula too, you know. Nemo lacks the charm of Toy Story 1 and 2, but it is on par with Monster’s Inc. The movie has an underlying sadness to it for the first half of the movie as Marlin struggles with his despair. Yet, it picks up in the middle and makes an exhilarating dash for the finish line. This film is not a full length laugh track like the previous Pixar releases. Nemo has its share of humor but it is almost evenly dispersed with elements of drama.

Pixar makes moves that can appeal to adults and still treat the kids. As we left the theatre, Allie said it was awesome and hugged me for taking her. Who can argue with that?