Dive into incredible fish tale with 'Finding Nemo'
By Jack Garner
Gannett News Service
|FINDING NEMO (G) Four Stars (Excellent)
Another delightful Pixar tale, this is the story of a neurotic little fish (Albert Brooks) forced to acts of courage in the quest to find his missing son in the vast ocean. Like other Pixar features, the film will enrapture the youngsters but also fully engage adults. Also starring the voices of Ellen DeGeneres, Willem Dafoe, Alexander Gould, Allison Janney, Brad Garrett, and Geoffrey Rush. This clever fun film was written and directed by Andrew Stanton. Walt Disney Films, 95 minutes.
And a school of pet fish in a dentist's office aquarium, plotting an escape back to the sea.
They're all part of "Finding Nemo," the freshest and most amusing family film of the season.
Clearly, we're in a colorful undersea world realized through the wonderfully warped prism of Pixar Animation. Pixar previously brought us two "Toy Story" films, "A Bug's Life" and "Monsters, Inc."
With "Finding Nemo," they continue their amazing hit streak of movies successfully targeted at viewers of all ages.
Like its Pixar predecessors, the delightful "Finding Nemo" strikes the perfect balance between the charm and childlike innocence of Disney animation and the cutting-edge humor and hipness of the old Warner Brothers cartoons.
"Finding Nemo" is set on Australia's Great Barrier Reef, where a cautious clown fish named Marlin lives amid the coral with his curious little son, Nemo.
In the prologue we see the reason for Marlin's caution: an attacking barracuda kills Nemo's mother and siblings. (Like the death of the mother in "Bambi" this might momentarily unsettle a few youngsters, but the dark mood quickly passes.)
One day at "school," little Nemo wanders off and disappears. The distraught Marlin is forced into acts of courage in a quest for his missing son in the vast ocean. Along the way, he's helped by a spunky if forgetful regal blue tang named Dory (DeGeneres) a character that gets a lot of comic mileage out of severe short-term memory loss.
Marlin and Dory are soon on an unforgettable odyssey that includes surprisingly helpful sharks and sea birds, as well as surfer-dude turtles that show them how to ride the East Australian Current all the way to Sydney Harbor.
Nemo, meanwhile, has ended up in a fish tank with other captured tropical fish. The tank is designed to entertain patients in a dentist's office, but the window also offers a view of, ta-da, Sydney Harbor.
Under the leadership of a wily Moorish Idol fish named Gill (Willem Dafoe), Nemo begins to plot how to get from the tank to the harbor.
Younger viewers will be captivated with the adventures of these likable characters. Older viewers will love the richly layered gags and pop culture references.
The Pixar animation gets better and better the fish truly seem to be swimming and the watery world is most convincing and very beautiful.
The studio is also especially adept at clever voice casting. Like Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and John Goodman in earlier Pixar films, Brooks and DeGeneres are ideal choices.
The animators obviously lean on the actors' public personas to create their characters. These fish really seem to be Brooks and DeGeneres, but with gills.
In a summer filled with unimaginative sequels, prequels and remakes, "Finding Nemo" is an imaginative and original delight.
Once you find "Nemo," you won't want to throw it back.