Benjamin is a former volunteer DJ at his local hospital radio station. He has been reviewing films online for over fifteen years.
What's the big deal?
Finding Nemo is an animated family adventure film released in 2003 and was the fifth feature-length CG movie from Pixar Studios. Written and directed by Andrew Stanton, the film follows a desperate clownfish as he searches for his young son who has gone missing. The film stars Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould and Willem Dafoe. Released to critical acclaim, the film became a phenomenal success at the box office and became the highest earning animated film in history at the time. The film was the first Pixar film to win Best Animated Feature Film at the Academy Awards and would go on to earn $871 million worldwide. Re-released as a 3D film in 2012, the film would be followed by a sequel - Finding Dory - in 2016 and at the time of writing, the film remains the biggest selling DVD film of all time with more than 40 million copies sold.
What's it about?
Nemo is a young clownfish who lives on the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Queensland, Australia together with his overprotective father Marlin. Despite having one fin smaller than the other, Nemo is eager to explore the surrounding ocean and the life teeming around him. Marlin, knowing the dangers of the ocean after his wife and the rest of his family were eaten by barracudas, is determined to keep Nemo as safe as possible. On his first day at school, Nemo manages to sneak away while Marlin is talking with Nemo's teacher but very quickly is snatched up by a scuba diver.
Realising the danger Nemo is in, Marlin begins to follow the speedboat but obviously is unable to keep up. Before long, he meets regal blue tang Dory who decides to help Marlin track his son down, despite her severe short-term memory issues. As for Nemo himself, he finds himself relocated into an aquarium at a dentist's office in Sydney where he finds himself involved in the escape plan devised by the tank's leader - a moorish idol fish called Gill...
Trailer (3D re-release)
Dory, regal blue tang
Gill, moorish idol
Crush, green sea turtle
Bruce, great white shark
Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson & David Reynolds**
Release Date (UK)
10th October, 2003
Animation, Adventure, Comedy, Family
Best Animated Feature
Academy Award Nominations
Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing
What's to like?
The very first thing that any family film has to be is easy to watch, something colourful and interesting to look at to maintain the attention of all but the very youngest of viewers. And without question, Finding Nemo is one of the best looking films Pixar have ever produced. It fills the screen with colour and life in a way that few films actually manage - every shot is literally teeming with movement whether it's from background characters or simply the background itself, drifting freely in the ocean currents. Even after all this time, the film remains among one of Pixar's best looking movies.
Voice acting is also very good, especially DeGeneres as the forgetful Dory who provides much of the film's comedy. But the relationship between Marlin and Nemo, despite spending much of the film apart, feels utterly organic and believable and is the lynchpin of the entire picture. We feel both Nemo's bravery and Marlin's fear as a parent and understand both character's perspectives which makes Finding Nemo feel much deeper than it initially appears. On the surface, the film can be enjoyed as a goofy physical comedy or touching adventure but it becomes something much more rewarding if you're prepared to look between the lines.
- There is a popular theory online that suggests that all the Pixar films happen in the same continuity but often, the films do reference previous or forthcoming films. Nemo, for example, appears in Monsters Inc as a toy in Boo's bedroom while Finding Nemo features a boy in the dentist's office reading a Mr Incredible comic while Luigi from Cars can be seen driving past the office outside.
- Pixar developed realistic-looking water effects for the film but had to step back because it looked too realistic for the film. Each frame of the movie (1/24th of a second) could take up to 4 days to produce because of the complexity of animating light passing through water and hitting fish scales.
- Megan Mullally revealed that she was initially hired to voice a part until the filmmakers discovered that her voice on Will And Grace wasn't her actual speaking voice. Despite strongly insisting that Mullally speak using that voice, she refused and was ultimately fired.
- One of the boats seen in the harbour is named Jerome's Raft, named after Jerome Ranft - a Pixar art department sculptor and brother of Joe Ranft, who voiced Jacques the shrimp in the aquarium. After Joe's untimely death in 2005, Jerome took over the role of Jacques for Finding Dory.
What's not to like?
Here's the thing. Anyone who has followed the enormous success that Pixar have achieved or long-time fans of their movies (and I am one of them) will probably acknowledge that one of their weaker films to date is A Bug's Life which made the two-fold mistake of a) being more focused on entertaining children than adults and b) not being a sequel to Toy Story. I believe that Finding Nemo is also guilty of repeating the first mistake - the film has a lot of childish humour as opposed to the sort of humour seen in other Pixar films that appeal to both adults and children. Much of the film sees Marlin and Dory accidentally find themselves in danger before a mad dash to safety but beyond that, the film doesn't have enough narrative to sustain itself. Even adding Nemo's subplot in his efforts to escape the tank, I felt that the film needed a little something to lift it to greatness.
The film looks even more primitive (narratively speaking) when compared to some of Pixar's later efforts like Inside Out and WALL-E. Many Pixar films take some brave decisions in terms of story-telling such as WALL-E being a mostly dialogue-free movie or the metaphorical characters used in Inside Out. By contrast, this film feels a touch... basic, I suppose although that sounds cruel to say so. Watching the film, you certainly won't complain about it because it wins you over with its lavish visuals and charming characters. But it never quite grabbed me in the way Pixar films usually do, possibly because I'm much older than the film's target audience.
Should I watch it?
Finding Nemo is a gorgeous family movie that will entertain children and beguile grown ups. The film has some of the best animation Pixar has ever produced while the talented cast help to create some of the most lovable and charming characters in Disney's extensive catalogue. It lacks a little of the narrative complexity of later Pixar films and feels more geared towards younger viewers but nevertheless, the film should be essential viewing for young families.
Great For: families, young children, environmentalists, Australian audiences
Not So Great For: ichthyophobics (anyone with a fear of fish), parents of pushy kids wanting their own clownfish, environmentalists distraught about the amount of merchandise produced
What else should I watch?
The belated sequel Finding Dory obviously focuses more on DeGeneres' forgetful fish heroine and was released to a similar wave of critical praise and audience appreciation as global taking topped $1 billion. But personally, I believe that Pixar are at their best telling original stories rather than sequels to their intellectual properties. Inside Out is a wonderfully creative and imaginative story of the thoughts, feelings and emotions of a young girl after she undergoes a traumatic home move with her parents. Up is a more standard fantasy adventure but featuring a widowed pensioner as its unlikely hero. But my favourite Pixar picture has to be WALL-E which blew me away when I first saw it and continues to do so every time I've seen it since.
As much of a fan of Pixar as I am, even I have to admit that not every one of their releases is as successful as their Toy Story franchise. The first of their films to disappoint me was the underwhelming Cars 2 which was squarely aimed at younger viewers even more so than its first film. But I also felt let down by The Good Dinosaur which failed to resonate much with me. Like Cars 2, it feels aimed at younger viewers but I couldn't get on board with the film conceptually - the film's unusual setting amid a family of farming dinosaurs didn't quite sit right with me. I'm sure my young nephew Finley, who is currently three and obsessed with dinosaurs, loves the film but personally, it didn't hit me the same way that something like The Incredibles did.
© 2020 Benjamin Cox