By: Oberst Von Berauscht (A Toast!) –
In 2003, Andrew Stanton had a lot going for him, being part of a small group of writers and animators forming the Pixar brain trust. They were on a four-film winning streak of groundbreaking features, shaking the foundation of competing animation studios to the ground. The media paid particular attention to this, their fifth and biggest film yet, searching feverishly for evidence of disappointment, and finding none. On it’s heels, Pixar created a film that would prove once again, that they had nothing to prove.
Finding Nemo tells the story of Marlin, a clownfish raising his son Nemo in a sea anemone on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef. The traumatic death of his wife Coral drives Marlin to be immensely neurotic and overly protective. Following a fight with Marlin, Nemo finds himself captured by a deranged scuba-diving Sydney dentist.
Aqualung, my friend
Don’t you start away uneasy
You poor old sod, you see, it’s only me
Marlin sets out on a quest to find his son, and in the process runs across Dory, a little fish with a major memory problem. She accompanies him on his quest, in the process indirectly teaching him to be a better dad.
When this film originally came out, I was in High School, and (naturally) too cool to be watching children’s movies. It took several years for me to discover it, and I consider myself a huge fan of this film, and Pixar in general. Their commitment to quality extends far beyond making a colorful kiddie movie, they focus just as heavily on the writing process, and making the characters who appeal to the child in everyone.
That is not to say that this isn’t also a technical masterpiece, as the animation and artwork holds up well even close to a decade later. If you look at most of the CGI based films from that long ago, you will easily be able to distinguish it from newer productions for their comparative sparseness in details. This is not the case, as Nemo features lush Ocean landscapes and absolutely beautiful water animation. Not to mention a stunning recreation of Sydney harbor.
Good stuff all around.
The voice cast is fantastic, particularly stars Albert Brooks (Marlin) and Ellen DeGeneres (Dory), who hold the film together with excellent comedic chemistry. The filmmakers played the two very different personalities off each other. Willem Dafoe also succeeds well as Gil, a mysterious tank-bound fish with dreams of escape to open water. Other highlights include Australian comedian Barry Humphries as Bruce the Shark, and Director Andrew Stanton himself as Crush; the surfer-dude sea turtle who rescues Marlin and Dory from a Jellyfish swarm.
The story is played out much like a road-trip movie, with Marlin and Dory encountering various obstacles and eccentric characters along the way. These moments are tied together by an emotionally charged story which will definitely produce tears in 3 out of every 5 female companions. Word has it there is a sequel in the Pixar pipeline, with Stanton returning as director. While I’m normally skeptical of sequels, the sheer size of the canvas they created for this film leaves huge possibilites open. (My Screenplay for Wall-E 2, in which humanity dies from starvation after trying in vain to farm for pizza, has seen no takers thus far).
Pixar’s best film at the time, and probably at least in the top 3 now. (If not still on top.)
Take a Drink: whenever Dory forgets something
Take a Drink: anytime Sydney, Australia is mentioned
Do a Shot: for John Ratzenberger’s obligatory cameo (hell, make it a double for old Cliff!)