Oh my word, how long have we been waiting for this day? Far too long. My all-time favourite of Pixar's extensive catalogue of movies and I've literally spent the last ten years wondering why the heck there hasn't been a UK Blu-ray release. Well, my waiting days are over at last, and not only do I get to own it on Blu-ray, we have been blessed with a 3D release that includes the original 2D version. Happy days my friends, happy days.
I've never really been one to shy away from admitting that I am a massive fan of animated movies. I love almost everything that Pixar do. I've watched Tangled a good handful of times and have no shame admitting that. I guess some folks just can't get past the fact that they're intended for kids, and that's completely fine, but the truth is that those people are wrong, or they have no soul or something. A lot of these movies, whilst primarily for the younger audience, have a rich and deep thread of adult humour running through them too. Hold on, no I don't mean that kind of adult humour, I mean that the creators of such timeless “children's” classics as Toy Story, Up and The Incredibles have an intense understanding of the fact that despite these movies being meant to entertain children, kids don't go to the movies on their own. Adults need to bring them, and if there's enough titter-worthy material in a kids movie for an adult to guffaw at once in a while, then it makes the entire experience that much more enjoyable for everyone. Perhaps describing these movies as “kids movies” is wrong. They're clearly family movies, but I'd suppose that those who say they don't particularly enjoy animated movies maybe can't shake the stigma of “cartoons” being for kids. Or perhaps they're simply dead inside. The point I'm trying to make is that I just don't understand those people. However, if you're reading this, then you're probably not one of those minority, and you share my enthusiasm for all things Disney-Pixar.
It's no different with Finding Nemo. It's the perfect example of everything that Pixar do right. It's got it all – humour, sadness, tragedy, loss, and a rich wealth of characters that are utterly enthralling to behold. It takes me back to the early days of Creature Comforts back in 1989 when Nick Park took a bunch of recordings of the British public just talking, and animated a short movie of animals at a zoo “speaking” those words. It was brilliant. It had a realism to it that was completely inescapable, yet it was being animated with clay models of animals in a zoo. It was completely deserving of it's Oscar too. Ardman and Park went on to huge successes, but whatever way you look at it, Pixar took this level of character animation that one step further. In fact, with each movie Pixar released they take another step forward both technically and creatively (though the less said about Cars the better in my view). Generally, the subject matter can be loosely tied to whatever new technology Pixar have managed to develop. First there was Toy Story. Pixar pioneered the brilliantly impressive rendering of Toys, bringing them to life with incredible skill and such a believable humanistic feel to them. Not to mention the screenplay having Joel Cohen and Joss Whedon's stink all over it. Then there was the fur in Monsters Inc. which simultaneously blew everybody away and made us want to hug Sully. With Finding Nemo, it's water, and boy had they really hit on something huge.
The story itself is quite a simple tale, and it's one of tragedy and loss. Deep in the ocean blue, two Clownfish named Marlin and Coral are about to become parents. Having moved to a location off the barrier reef known as “The Drop Off” - a huge underwater cliff that disappears to depths unknown and nobody really knows what dangers lurk down there in the deep. Suddenly, amidst the preparation for their many baby fish eggs to start hatching, their home is attacked by a giant barracuda. Marlin is knocked unconscious, and when he comes round, he finds that Coral is gone, and so are all but one of their eggs. Marlin vows never to let anything happen to it. He promises to cherish it and gives the egg a name that Coral loved – Nemo.
Fast forward a few years, and Nemo is growing up and ready to start school. Having moved away from where the awful tragedy took place, Marlin has found a nice quiet area of the ocean for him to raise his son in. Nemo has a slightly squiffy fin on one side that his dad refers to as his “special” fin. His dad tends to use his special fin as an excuse to be completely overbearing and protective of him – this drives Nemo crazy, much as it would drive any kid with an obsessive parent round the bend. When Nemo's first day at school turns out to be a trip to the drop off, Marlin is overwhelmed with anxiety and worry and refuses to let Nemo go, much to the little guy's disappointment.
Angered by his dad's unwillingness to let him enjoy school like the other kids, Nemo decides to rebel and prove that he's as good a swimmer as any other fish his age. While his dad is busy berating the school teacher, a huge Ray named “Mr. Ray”, for bringing the kids to such a dangerous place, Nemo swims out past the Drop Off to touch the underside of a boat floating some distance off. Things go wrong, and Nemo is captured by a diver and taken away, and Marlin, distraught at having lost his only son, begins an epic search that sees him swim across the whole ocean in search of Nemo, meeting many colourful and vibrant characters along the way.
There's Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a Pacific Regal Blue Tang who takes pity on him and decides to help Marlin find his missing son. Dory has a slight condition that can sometimes make things a little awkward – she has short term memory loss, and can become very easily confused. Then there's Crush (Andrew Stanton himself), a Green Sea Turtle whose dialect is straight from the beaches of California, sporting the “totally cool” surfer dude accent, three recovering “fish-a-holic” sharks named Bruce (Barry Humphries), Anchor (Eric Bana) and Chum (Brice Spence), and numerous other odd and interestingly quirky characters along the way. Marlin's task is monumental, but with grit and determination he continues his desperate search for Nemo, his beloved only son.
Meanwhile, Nemo is brought back to Sydney Harbour by his human captor, a happy-go-lucky dentist who has a keen interest in fish. He drops Nemo into his fish-tank, and Nemo quickly overcomes his fear of his new surroundings, but is determined to make it back to the ocean to his father. The other fish in the tank with him, which include a badly scarred Moorish Idol fish named Gill (Willem Dafoe) try to help Nemo escape before the dentists Niece, Darla comes to visit. It becomes clear that Nemo is intended as a gift from the dentist to Darla, and the last fish he gave her ended up floating upside down because the terrible girl wouldn't stop shaking the bag. With the help of a giant Pelican named Nigal, and the rest of the fish in the tank, Nemo sets about his grand escape and clings on to his hopes of being reunited with his father.
As the tale goes on, we become completely attached to the characters we're presented with, and find ourselves swept along on this beautifully written, epic story that simply goes from strength to strength with each moment that passes. Playing on emotions and doing it well, Finding Nemo is an instant classic that has everything going for it.
Written and Directed by Andrew Stanton, who had worked on all of John Lassaters previous movies at Pixar, it was the second movie not to have been directed by Lasseter himself after Monsters Inc. Besides writing, Stanton had only had experience as a Co Director previously, but his touch is delicate and precise here, and doesn't fall foul of any major glaring pitfalls, and although the direction is a little gauzy at times, it's a confident and wonderfully realised debut.
The cast is phenomenal, as we've come to expect from Pixar movies. Albert Brooks is excellent as the anxiety ridden over-protective father, Marlin. Once you get over the fact that you're looking at fish with almost human faces, it's a joy to behold Marlin attempting to relay a joke with absolutely abominable comedic skills. It's hard to imagine anyone could have gotten Marlin's character more right than Brooks. Ellen DeGeneres is undoubtedly in her best role ever as Dory the forgetful blue tang. Her delivery is fantastic, and she seems to have this hapless charm that is a joy to behold. Her comedic skills clearly coming to the fore for this one, it's hard to pick one moment out, but if I had to I'd choose her “sleep-talking” moments where she's muttering something about “a sea monkey has my money”. Outside of the main two, there's some stirling performances from Barry Humphries, Eric Bana and Bruce Spence as the trio of sharks who have formed a support group for each other in their attempt to not eat fish anymore. Their motto is that “Fish are friends, not food”. It's an excellent parody and it's executed perfectly with a brilliant sequence where two of the sharks scream “intervention!” when the Great White catches a whiff of blood and charges at Marlin and Dory. Truly memorable stuff.
Though the stars of the show are undoubtedly the characters, on the whole, the story is also very strong. It's heartfelt and touching, whilst simultaneously being very amusing and not short of a few “edge of your seat” moments. Adults will undoubtedly enjoy this just as much as the kids will. It's simply a -must see- family movie, if not the -must see- family movie. By far and away one of Pixar's finest pieces, it's as timeless as it is entertaining. Even after 10 years it stands up against any family movie since. A true gem.
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