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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 scuba 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:
The novel approach to the visual commentary on Disc 1 that takes the place of the more usual audio commentary is a standout feature on this package, and together with the 'Making of' doco on Disc 2, hammers home the intensity and the immensity of the work that went into the creation and production of Finding Nemo - but without losing the inherent sense of humour and fun.

The two disc set is designed to be enjoyed by both a younger audience as well as adults who have found the film's creative achievements wondrous. There are dozens of great inclusions, from writer director Andrew Stanton pitching the film line by line to potential licencees, to deleted scenes (and work in progress) that pop up automatically as part of the visual commentary.

There is humour in the presentations as well as in the visuals of the fish that live around the reef. Informative in an entertaining way, the extra features include a short but amusing piece with Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of the famous underwater researcher, who finally gives up in despair, after being endlessly interrupted by Dory and Nemo while trying to be serious.

And there's more: a tour of Pixar studios and its people, Pixar's early short animation, Knick Knack, and a game of Fisharades, and some educational pieces. The vibrant colours and sense of exuberance are carried through these elements, including scenes you can use to turn your tv into a virtual aquarium.

The transfer of the film itself to DVD is faultless in sound and image quality, and while the screen is smaller, the entertainment value is not. It's still 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. (Andrew Stanton explains in the Making of doco that there were two reasons, one being pragmatic: too hard to use an all-Australian cast working in California. Second, he felt international waters could be populated by international fish.)

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.

Published January 22, 2004

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CAST: 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

DIRECTOR: Andrew Stanton (Lee Unkrich co-director)

SCRIPT: Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson, David Reynolds

RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes (ftr only)

PRESENTATION: DISC 1: DD 5.1 & DTS; DISC 2: DD 2.0; Widescreen 16:9

SPECIAL FEATURES: DISC 1: feature film; feature film with visual commentary by the filmmakers (includes deleted scenes and recording sessions); virtual aquarium. DISC 2: Making Nemo; Exploring The Reef with Jean-Michel Cousteau; Fisharades; The Art of Nemo; Learning with Mr Ray's Encyclopedia; Pixar Studio Tour; Knick Knack (short); Storytime fun for the young

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: January 16, 2004

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