Watching Finding Nemo back-to-back with Final Fantasy just proves how brilliant Pixar is at movie making. The animation doesn’t have to be perfect so long as the story is. What Final Fantasy tried was admirable, but the focus was more on how everything looked while the story felt like an afterthought. Nemo, on the other hand, is gorgeously animated, but the story is the main focus.
Finding Nemo was probably the first Pixar movie to make me sob in the theater. The first five minutes will leave you emotionally wrecked (unless you’re Ben, and need Bridge to Terabithia levels of sadness to almost make you cry), and the remainder of the film is full of weepy-eyed moments. There’s such a sweetness to this movie, and you really care about the characters from the first scene. The fact that the film is so visually gorgeous is a bonus. There are scenes that feel real even though the animation is decidedly stylized, which is a credit to the screenplay and character development.
Much like Cars, this film doesn’t have a traditional villain. There are scary figures for sure, but none that stalk the characters throughout their journey. The closest you get is Darla the “fish killer,” but she’s just an overexcited kid who loves fish a little too much. No, the real “nemesis” in this movie is Nemo’s helicopter parent father, Marlin. He’s so concerned about making sure nothing ever happens to his son that he doesn’t let him lead a normal fishy childhood. Nemo understandably acts out against this overprotection, and winds up far away from home as a result. Marlin learning to let go and trust his son is such a timeless and relatable premise that it doesn’t need the looming specter of a baddie to drive the action.
It was recently announced that Finding Nemo is getting the sequel treatment, this time with our favorite forgetful fish Dory starring. I’m crossing my fingers that this movie will be more Toy Story 3 than Cars 2, but I have my reservations about Ellen DeGeneres’ ability to carry an entire film. She was delightful here, but with the wrong story I could easily see this character becoming boring or even annoying. Still, I won’t pass judgement until I actually see the film. And if I know Pixar, that judgement will be delivered through teary eyes and sniffles.
(Quick note: I hadn’t watched this movie since moving to Sydney, so it was a kick to watch the scenes in which the city appears and actually know that that is in fact what it looks like. I’m still trying to convince Ben to visit the Great Barrier Reef with me, hopefully while it still looks somewhat like how it is portrayed in this movie.)
I am writing this review a few minutes after writing the review for the animated crapfest Final Fantasy. These two films could not be more different. While Final Fantasy had little story or character development to speak of, this is Pixar’s bread and butter. The makers of Finding Nemo have constructed a story so good I am able to care about a crippled fish that goes missing and his dad’s frantic search to find him. One of Pixar’s strengths is creating stories we can all relate too. I may not have children of my own, but I certainly know how I’d feel if a family member went missing. We can all relate to a story like this, which makes it much easier for us to come along for the ride.
Nemo is the last remaining offspring of Marlin (Albert Brooks). His mother died defending his brothers and sisters from another large fish looking for a meal. Nemo was the only fish that survived this attack and has a gimpy fin for his troubles. Because of this, his dad is extremely protective and even dislikes the idea of him going to school. When Marlin embarrasses Nemo on his first day, Nemo rebels like any child and ends up getting picked up by a deep sea diving dentist looking to add to his fish collection. Marlin must confront his fears and journey out of his comfort zone if he’s any chance of finding his son, while Nemo meets up with a group of exotic fish in the dentist’s tank and together they plan a breakout to get Nemo back to his father.
This film just has so much heart. It crushes you in the first five minutes when Nemo’s mother dies; this scene really helps establish the world Marlin lives in and explains why he is so protective of his son. Little things like this are what makes Pixar so successful. The animation is top quality, but even if it wasn’t, the story and characters are enough to make you want to go on this journey. Finding Nemo is one of Pixar’s best efforts, it is a story that will always be relevant. The voice cast and story are top notch, especially Ellen DeGeneres as Marlin’s absent minded unlikely partner, Dory. This film was what brought Ellen back to the attention of the general population. I believe Ellen would not be the success she is now if it wasn’t for her appearance in Finding Nemo. She had largely been forgotten after the cancellation of her sitcom a few years earlier, but this voice role reminded everyone how charming and funny Ellen could be. There is a sequel to this film currently in development which revolves around her character (it’s called Finding Dory), which just goes to show what a popular character Dory became and there is enough there to base an entire movie around her.
Finding Nemo is one of Pixar’s best efforts. The story, characters and voice acting is so good. This was released during a time when everything Pixar touched turned to gold and Finding Nemo was them at the top of their game.