Posts Tagged ‘Finding Nemo’

From the Hootoo archive. Originally published October 30th 2003:

Pixar Animation Studios continue to add to their formidable reputation as purveyors of top-quality family entertainment with Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich’s Finding Nemo, a film which promises to do for the pilchard industry what Babe did for bacon sandwiches. In the tradition of the Toy Story films and Monsters Inc, this is a computer-animated adventure which really does have something for all the family (with the possible exception of very tiny infants, surly teenagers, and the senile).

Albert Brooks provides the voice of Marlin the clownfish, who is, well, a fish. He is not a happy fish, however: recently widowed in a freak barracuda-related accident, he finds himself the over-protective single parent of disabled baby fish Nemo (Alexander Gould). Honestly, this really is the plot. But Marlin’s haddocks don’t stop there, as Nemo is eager to see the world no matter how his father tries to protect him. (Marlin’s total inability to tell a joke does not make life as a clownfish any easier, either.)

Disaster strikes when on a school trip (for once an unintentional pun. Apologies) to the edge of the reef where they live, Nemo swims out to a nearby boat and is promptly bagged by a passing diver. Marlin must overcome his natural timidity and rescue his son from the dentist’s fish tank where he eventually ends up, helped and hindered by the flakey Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a – um – a blue fish of some kind. But the hapless duo soon discover that the open ocean can be a dangerous plaice…

There seems to me to be something a bit perverse about the way that nearly all the drollest, wittiest, most off-the-wall and just plain funniest scripts these days seem to be written for films aimed at people under the age of ten. Particular when, judging from the number of advertising tie-ins in the trailers preceding the film, Finding Nemo almost seems to have been designed as a merchandising opportunity first and a work of art second.

But it would be unfair if either of these concerns got in the way of the fact that Finding Nemo is a superbly crafted piece of entertainment. Admittedly, with its slightly predictable story of learning and growing, and declarations of ‘I love you dad’/’I love you too, son’, the plot seems to have been assembled using a spreadsheet, but there are some terrifically good jokes that work on all levels – slapstick, one-liners, sly film parodies, and just plain weird stuff (I particularly enjoyed the twelve-stepping members of Sharks Anonymous). There are loads of memorable characters, brought to life by the vocal talents of a stellar cast including Willem Dafoe (whose CV’s gone a bit weird lately), Allison Janney, Barry Humphries, Eric Bana, and Geoffrey Rush.

For all the script’s wit and verve, the really jaw-dropping element of this film is the animation, which is remarkable, seamlessly combining the cartoonishly anthropomorphic main characters (Marlin looks very faintly like Terry Jones in the opening sequence of Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life) with, at times, almost photorealistic backgrounds. The ocean is brought to life with such skill, vividness and texture that at times I almost thought CGI fish were being matted onto film backgrounds. It is quite, quite beautiful and easily worth the price of admission by itself.

Comparisons are inevitably fatuous, but Finding Nemo is at least the equal of the Toy Story films, a very memorable experience and a prime piece of evidence for the ‘traditional animation is dead, long live CGI’ school of thought. Certainly it’s difficult to conceive of a cel-painted film with such charm, energy, and depth. A film with genuine sole.

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