Finding Nemo is one of my favorite animated films. It has an ocean full of colorful characters bursting with personality, witty dialogue and an adventurous story perfect for bringing parents and children together. I didn’t get the chance to see it during its original release. In fact, the first time I saw it was on a tiny TV on a bus trip with my high school band. So last week, I bought into the 3D re-release gimmick, got some funky orange glasses, laughed and cried more than the few kids and parents in the theater.
The film tells the story of father and son clown fish. Marlin (Albert Brooks) lost his wife and all but one egg in a heartbreaking barracuda attack. Nemo (Alexander Gould) is the only surviving egg, but suffered a crack, which resulted in an underdeveloped fin. Now Nemo is a growing kid, excited for his first day of school, and Marlin worries so much that he becomes an overbearing parent. When he hears that Nemo’s class is headed to “the drop off” he follows. Imagine poor Nemo’s embarrassment when his dad pops out behind the coral and makes a scene, about to take him home in front of the whole class! So Nemo decides to prove to his dad and everyone that he is a strong swimmer, but his bold defiance (he touched the butt!) gets him captured by a scuba diving dentist from Sydney. Now Marlin must search for his son, but there’s no way he can find him alone.
Both Marlin and Nemo are in for life changing adventures. Marlin’s involve befriending Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a blue fish with severe short term memory loss. Together they encounter a trio of sharks in a fish-aholics anonymous club, fight off a vicious angler fish, bounce through a dangerous field of jellyfish, and travel with laid back sea turtles. Word spreads through the waters of Marlin’s quest to find Nemo. Meanwhile, Nemo becomes the newest member of an aquarium, with an official initiation at the top of Mt. Wanna-hock-a-loogie. He finds a new role model, Gil (Willem Dafoe), who also has a bad fin. When they hear that the dentist is going to give Nemo to his niece as a gift, they hatch a plan to escape, and Nemo plays a big role.
During the Oscar season, Finding Nemo was nominated for three awards. It was up for best original screenplay, original music score, sound editing and animated feature. The only win was for animated feature, Pixar’s first win in the newly formed category. I often wonder when directors of animated films will break through and find nomination at the Oscars. Finding Nemo’s director, Andrew Stanton, has certainly made some strides for all animation directors.
While seeing Finding Nemo in theaters was an experience I wanted, I could have done without the 3D. All the times I’ve seen the film on a tv, the colors were so vivid and bright. Sadly, the colors in the theater seemed murky, I imagined their ocean had been polluted over the years. This was only made worse because the short before the film, PartySaurus Rex featuring Toy Story characters, made great use of the dimming effects of 3D and amped up the neon-dark contrasts. Still, I got the immersive effect I was hoping for and as always enjoyed the film.
I believe Finding Nemo is a great film for kids and parents to understand one another a little better. Like other overprotective parents, Marlin needs to learn to let Nemo go a little at a time. He learns that Nemo is a perfectly capable child, regardless of his fin, and has grown into a smart kid. And Nemo finds a lot more love and respect for his dad. Hopefully every kid that has seen Finding Nemo comes away knowing that their parents would brave an entire ocean for them too.
“Oh, it’s awesome, Jellyman. The little dudes are just eggs, we leave ‘em on a beach to hatch, and then, coo-coo-cachoo, they find their way back to the big ol’ blue.”