A tiny clown fish, Marlin (voice of Albert Brooks) sets off on a frantic search to find his even tinier young son Nemo (Alexander Gould) who, after having wondered off into open ocean from their safe haven on the Great Barrier Reef, is netted by a diver. Marlin’s perilous adventures – punctuated by a variety of sea creatures who may or may not be deadly - are shared by the scatty brained Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), with whose often unhelpful help, Marlin is gradually steered towards Sydney, where young Nemo has been placed in a fish tank with assorted other fish, in a dental surgery, where he is soon to be given to the dentist’s horrid little niece.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Peals of laughter rose from the front row of children at my screening, accompanied by chortles from the adults, as Marlin searched for his son Nemo in a spectacular and entertaining adventure filled with invention and observation. I was struck by the fact that not only one of the central characters but a notable support fish (Crush, a cool 150 year old turtle dad who likes to call all fish dude, voiced by the writer/director) are child-nurturing fathers. Possibly single parents, but that’s not my point. It’s reassuring to see roles like these in the hands of male hero figures for a change.
Pity, then, that the clown fish and his son (among other key characters) are voiced in American voices & accents, especially as the film is proudly set on Australia’s east coast and features several Australian actors lending their voice talents to terrific characters. So it can’t be the fear that American audiences won’t understand the Aussies. That aside, the film is a fabulous achievement in creative, technical and entertainment terms. The vivid, clear colours that are found underwater on the coral reefs are superbly juiced up, and the water world itself is magically captured; it’s swells, its special characteristics brought to a fictional life that we both recognise and find mysterious, thrilling, exotic and dangerous.
Wonderful writing generates several layers of humour – from the innocent joys of childish fun to more complex comedy, but never at anyone’s (or any fish’s) cruel expense - as well as an engaging dramatic plot. The fish and the birds (you’ll love the seagulls squawking ‘mine’, as they do) are as real as live action, except more human, and the humans are more perfunctory and stoopid. I like that. There are also many joyous scenes of sheer exuberant creativity from a team that’s worked together for several years (eg Toy Story I & II, A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc) and has learnt that sincerity and acute observation work just as well for animation as for live action. In short, Pixar, possibly comparable in ways to England’s Aardman Animations studio, has done it again: Finding Nemo is a relatively schmalz free zone with a big heart and a good joke or four up its sleeve. A film for everyone, especially dentists.
Review by Louise Keller:
A love story, a comedy, an escape movie and an adventure all in one, Finding Nemo is simply magical. Combining brilliant storytelling with its stylised wonderland of exquisite visuals, the film successfully crashes through all age barriers, and makes every age group feel as though it was tailor-made for them. From the makers of Toy Story, A Bug’s Life and Monsters Inc, the story is character-propelled and the delightful humour comes naturally from the storyline.
The story is simple, yet the emotions are not, so the rollercoaster of a ride that we embark on is an emotional one, as we laugh, cry and enjoy all the emotions in between. This might be a Pixar fantasy, but there’s nothing fictional about the emotions displayed. The all-star voice talent headed by Albert Brooks (Marlin), Ellen DeGeneres (Dory), nine-year-old Alexander Gould (Nemo), Barry Humphries, Eric Bana and Bruce Spence as the sharks, Geoffrey Rush as the Pelican and Willem Dafoe as the scarred Leader of the Tank are all wonderful. When we first meet Marlin and his lady clown fish Coral cavorting in courtship amongst the fronds of the gently swaying pink coral, we are touched by their love and commitment. Of course when baby Nemo comes onto the scene, the father/son relationship is one that we can easily relate to.
The ocean floor is a wonderland of colour with its mix of deep blue ocean, vivid and multi-textured corals, rocks and anemones, plus of course the brightly coloured assortment of fish whose striking markings are so brilliant they could have come straight from a box of liquorice allsorts (or should that be tropical fish allsorts.) When Nemo tries to prove himself to his father, the adventure begins for both of them. I love the way the camaraderie between the fish in the fish tank is established as fraternal members of the Tank-Hood, and their fish-eye view of the dentist’s patients is hilarious. As for Marlin, his key relationship with Dory, the cobalt blue, yellow and black fish with a memory problem (‘Yes, I’m a natural blue’), is filled with spontaneously funny and priceless moments. How could we not be intrigued by the shark with the man-sized spiky-toothed grin who heads up a Non-Fish-eating support group, and by the group of lovable turtle-dudes with their playful turtle babies with whom Dory and Marlin hitch a ride. It’s quite a trip.
The ideas are inventive and they just keep coming. Armed with determination, Nemo develops his self-confidence and earns respect as the Tank’s intricate escape plan reaches its final stages. We to and fro between the ocean and the tank, as both Nemo and Marlin struggle against the odds to find each other. This could well be the most enjoyable film of the year! You don’t know the meaning of ‘feel-good’ until you meet Nemo and friends.
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INTERVIEW with writers /directors Andrew Stanton & Lee Unkrich - by Andrew L. Urban
FINDING NEMO (G)
VOICES: Voices of Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe, Brad Garrett, Allison Janney, Austin Pendleton, Stephen Root, Vicki Lewis, Joe Ranft, Geoffrey Rush, Andrew Stanton, Barry Humphries, Eric Bana, Bruce Spence, Bill Hunter
PRODUCER: Graham Walters
DIRECTOR: Andrew Stanton (Lee Unkrich co-director)
SCRIPT: Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson, David Reynolds
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Sharon Calahan, Jeremy Lasky
EDITOR: David Ian Salter
MUSIC: Thomas Newman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Ralph Eggleston
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: BVI
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 28, 2003