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"Okay, if you're right, and The Matrix Reloaded
really was the biggest disappointment since
Lucas decided to create a prequel - we'll turn
around to face a gigantic shark, ready for his
dinner!"

Finding Nemo
Review written by: Alex Sandell

Finding Nemo is a magical movie, chockfull of memorable characters, fast-paced action and a cinematic heart and soul.  Unlike the majority of "family" films we've been getting, it doesn't take the easy way out with over-abundance of potty jokes and Eddie Murphy. 

Writer and director Andrew Stanton (Monster's Inc., A Bug's Life) knows that pandering to his key demographic would be artistic suicide.  Although the 100 minute movie does include an elaborately staged fart joke, it's obvious that Stanton considers the characters surrounding the "farting" to be more important than the "fart" itself.  The movie strongly asserts itself as a family film, rather than "disposable crap you can take the family to," within its first five minutes. 

Through a traumatic event, Nemo (Alexander Gould) loses his mother and 499 of his siblings - leaving only his father Marlin (Albert Brooks), an overprotective clown fish, over-protecting his son from the many dangers lurking in the Great Barrier Reef.  In an act of rebellion, Nemo swims past the reef's "drop off," where he's captured by a scuba-diving dentist, who ends up putting him inside of a saltwater fish aquarium.     

Although Marlin knows nothing about his son's fate, he is determined to seek him out, no matter how rough the waters ahead may be.  The nervous clown fish embarks on the journey of a lifetime, in hopes of rescuing his child.  It seems to be a stroke of luck when Marlin meets up with a friendly blue tang fish named Dory (Ellen Degeneres), who saw which direction the dentist diver's boat was headed in.  The problem with Dory is that she has next to no short-term memory.  So, of course she doesn't really remember which way the boat was going. 

Swimming on a hunch, Marlin and Dory head out to find Nemo.  Soon, they meet up with a unique rehab group of sharks attempting to give up the habit of eating fish.  In typical Pixar fashion, the great white is named Bruce (Barry Humphries).  Bruce was the name Spielberg gave to the mechanical shark used in the original Jaws.  These "insider" jokes always get a laugh out of me.  You can find something very similar in Monsters, Inc., when Mike tells Celia that he has reservations at Harryhausen's.  Ray Harryhausen was a legend in stop-motion.  He created hundreds of wonderful monsters.  It's nice to see Pixar sending props out to the past greats that inspired them.

Poor Bruce the Great White.  How can a shark named after Jaws, ever behave?  When the great white falls "off the wagon," it makes for a deliciously intense action sequence.  It scares the kids in the audience, without mortifying them.  The "mortifying" scene comes a few minutes later when our heroes dive deep into the ocean, in search of the invaluable facemask containing the information regarding Nemo's whereabouts.  When you see the glowing light that makes both Marlin and Dory feel warm and gooey, set your parental advice meters to the, "it's only an imaginary movie" mode - because your kids are going to need the reassurance.

Although he's confined to a tank, Nemo isn't having an easy go of things, either.  Soon after arriving, he finds out that he's about to become a gift to the dentist's niece.  Through the use of a photograph, Nemo's newfound fish friends show him what happened to last year's "gift."  To his terror, Nemo sees the brace-faced (what is Pixar's problem with kids and braces?  They always seem to be portrayed as "evil.") niece, holding her gift fish, which she took the liberty of shaking to death. 

Nemo needs to get out of the tank, and needs to get out, fast.  Gill (Willem Dafoe), a hardened veteran of "the box," concocts a plan to set Nemo free.  The plan requires a pebble.  A filter.  A dirty tank.  Some plastic bags.  And a whole lot of luck.  If everything goes without a hitch, Nemo may have a chance at avoiding the sadistic niece, while reuniting with his father.

Finding Nemo isn't all extreme moments of despair.  Most of the action isn't as petrifying as the scenes described above, and are more of an entertaining roller-coaster ride, that won't leave children trembling.  It's a family film, and its primary focus is on fun.  While a great deal of the jokes in the movie fall flat, some of them are hysterically funny.  When Dory begins speaking "whale," I had to restrain myself, to avoid coming off as a laughing hyena, which just wet its pants.  It's one of the funniest scenes in an animated movie -- or in any movie -- during the past decade.  And when the characters of the reef come together to help Marlin find his son, it is truly heartwarming.  The film puts a lump in your throat and a tear in your eye, without ever becoming sappy.  Although the animation is absolutely dazzling to behold, the story is strong enough to stand up on its own. 

While the creative teams behind 2D animated feature films such as Titan A.E. and Treasure Planet nearly bore their audiences to death with Star Wars inspired hokum and lousy pop songs, the team behind Finding Nemo remembers what once made 2D feature films a wonder to behold, and they deliver it in spades.  The folks at Pixar remember that an animated family film needs something more than a "G" or "PG" rating to make it a crossover hit.  They remember that an animated family film needs memorable characters, an intriguing script, and action scenes that move the plot forward, to make it great.  More than anything, they remember that an animated family film needs both a heart and a soul to make it a classic.  With the release of Finding Nemo, the studio's fifth full-length feature film, and easily one of their best, the creative team at Pixar has redefined what is known as being "on a role."  And all because they never forgot.

Finding Nemo blankets its audience in a soothing glow.  It takes children to another world, and adults back to their childhood.  It's cinematic magic that wraps you up in a smile and allows you to leave the theater comfortably embraced by a big, virtual hug.  It's a date movie.  A parent movie.  A kid movie.  A teenager movie.  A grandparent movie.  It's a moviegoer's movie.  It's an animated classic.  It's Finding Nemo.  And everyone appreciative of quality cinema will be glad that they found this film.

On a scale of 1-10?

9

What does this rating mean?  Everyone rates things differently.  Your "5" could be my "7," or vice-versa.  Find out what MY rating means by clicking here.

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Text (Copyright) 2003 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].