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"A fish tale the whole family can enjoy."
"The detail is so magnificent that the story almost plays secondary to the awe-inspiring beauty."
"DeGeneres is wonderfully chatty and hysterical, albeit very forgetful!"
Finding Nemo  


Marlin: Albert Brooks
Dory: Ellen DeGeneres
Nemo: Alexander Gould
Gill: Willem Dafoe
Nigel: Geoffrey Rush
Bloat: Brad Garrett
Bruce: Barry Humphries
Review June 2003

"Finding Nemo" is a fish tale the whole family can enjoy. It has beautiful animation and tropical colors, a child friendly story, and uses adult themes and humor without being too obtrusive. Detailing the journey of a father in search of his missing son through the vastness of the Pacific Ocean/Coral Sea, the film explores underwater life through the eyes of a clown fish. From the producers of such wonderfully vivid and original films as "Toy Story" and "Monsters, Inc," "Finding Nemo" is an instant animated classic for all ages.

Clown fish, also known as Amphiprion ocellaris, are known for inhabiting sea anemone, staying close to home, and staying away from the open sea all together. And just like any other clown fish, Marlin wants to do just that. He has a loving mate who has just given him hundreds of Marlin Juniors and he finds a protective anemone along the Great Barrier Reef to house his new family, one that is in close proximity to food sources and fish schools. But tragedy strikes shortly after moving into their new home. A barracuda takes the life of all but one of the eggs - little Nemo. Born with a withered fin, Nemo is slightly handicapped in swimming, but certainly not in curiosity and excitement.

On Nemo's first day of fish school, his father warns him to stay away from the deep-end of water. But struggling to fit in with his classmates, he ignores his father's instruction, swims out to the drop off, and is subsequently captured by a deep-sea diver. Witnessing this horror but too late to stop it is Marlin. He chases after the boat carrying Nemo only to wind up in the open sea all alone. While Nemo is sold to a tropical fish retailer and eventually winds up in an aquarium in a dentist's office, Marlin desperately tries to track down his son. Immediately, he runs into a talkative and friendly blue fish named Dory. Dory suffers from short-term memory loss; however, her optimism and energy prove invaluable to Marlin on his journey.

Along the way, the two encounter a trio of support group sharks (Fish-eaters anonymous), some carefree surfer-like sea turtles (dude!), a brown Pelican, a dangerous grouping of jellyfish, and even wind up in the belly of a whale. Meanwhile, Nemo is having his own adventure, replete with an odd assortment of friendly fish in the dentist's aquarium, friends who also have their hopes set on returning or escaping to the ocean. As Nemo and the aquarium gang plot their escape, Marlin and Dory make their way to the Australian coast. Despite the enormity of the ocean and the scope of the search, it would appear that everyone is out to find Nemo and reunite him with his father.

"Finding Nemo" is one of those films that wash right over you. Much like sitting in front of an IMAX film and being totally absorbed, I was entranced with all the colorful images floating along the sides of the screen in addition to what was happening front and center. The detail is so magnificent that the story almost plays secondary to the awe-inspiring beauty. Yet what makes it so real is not the clarity of the all around picture, but rather the blurriness that persists in the background. This darkened appearance gives you a sense of hidden depth and mystery. Of particular notice was the scene where Marlin and Dory are debating whether or not to ask a fish for directions. You have no idea about the size or kind of fish that floats in the distance until it comes into full view.

As Pixar's 5th feature film in conjunction with Disney, "Nemo" borrows elements from the classic Disney line as well as elements from "Toy Story" [see if you can spot the Buzz Lightyear cameo]. Co-written and directed by Andrew Stanton (who also provides the voice of the sea turtle Crush), it has the quirky humor of a Pixar flick while also dealing with heavier issues underneath - issues surrounding fatherhood, loss, handicaps, support groups, and mental illnesses. Of utmost importance is Marlin, who displays signs of an overprotective father and must relinquish control over Nemo in order for his son to grow. These adult themes are handled with great ease and in light detail without inhibiting the flow of the story for children. They make the characters more fallible and their flaws identifiable.

Films such as these are wonderful learning tools for children because they paint a picture that isn't necessarily from a human perspective, but rather the perspective of an ant, a toy, a monster, or in this case, a fish. In these worlds, the characters exhibit humanlike emotions and concerns - finding acceptance among one's peers, rekindling friendship with a loved one, or exercising patience and trust in parenthood. But in these worlds as in real life, humans can be both helpful and harmful. Such portraits make you rethink things from a variety of different perspectives. For instance, purchasing a fish from a pet store to have as a pet seems innocent enough, but to the fish, says Gill, they "aren't meant to be in a box...it does things to you." From a human perspective, children may seem innocent, but from a toy or fish's perspective, children with braces can be made to look like monsters!

Although Albert Brooks is distinguishable as Marlin, the neurotic father fish, it's really Ellen DeGeneres who steals the show. As the voice of Dory, the short-term memory Regal Blue Tang that accompanies Marlin on his journey to find Nemo, DeGeneres is wonderfully chatty and hysterical, albeit very forgetful! Her attempt to communicate with whales is a laughing riot by itself. Also typical for most animated features, a slew of familiar voices bring life to characters including Willem Dafoe as Gill, Geoffrey Rush as Nigel, Brad Garrett as Bloat, and Allison Janney as Peach the Starfish. Their personas in film and television give their characters an additional background and richness all by themselves.

"Finding Nemo" is a great animated adventure to be enjoyed by all. It retains all of the elements of previous Pixar entries and builds on their strengths. Even though the film's primary storyline involves finding Nemo, you may find yourself lost in the beautiful expanse of ocean that the animators created. With over 3.7 trillion fish in the sea, it's remarkable that something as small as a clown fish could possibly be found. But for Marlin and Nemo, finding themselves was just as important as finding each other. As e.e. cummings once wrote: "whatever we lose, it's always ourselves that we find in the ocean."

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