By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)
The 2003 Oscar-winner for Best Animated Feature, Finding Nemo swims back up to the surface in a 3D re-release. Not the gimmicky pop-out type 3D, but a beautifully crafted modification that enhances all the visual wonder that this particular Poseidon adventure was meant to be. Whether it’s the thrill ride atop the candy-pink jellyfish, or the texture of a whale’s tongue, or those grotesquely funny teeth belonging to Bruce the Shark (ever floss, Bruce?), the redo is worth the trip to the movie house. Try to locate an extra fin or two and bring the whole family … this Pixar revisit is more than see-worthy.
However, no matter the visual beauty, Finding Nemo exemplifies the Pixar mantra of “story first,” with a precise opening that sets up the theme and the two leads. Echoing Disney’s oft-used dead-mother, single-child paradigm, we first witness the playful true love between expectant clownfish parents Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Coral (Elizabeth Perkins). When a barracuda attacks, leaving Marlin and only one egg as the sole survivors, we experience Marlin’s heartbreak as the opening credits float into view. No wonder he’s over-protective. No wonder he tells his new son Nemo (Alexander Gould), “I promise I’ll never let anything happen to you.” It’s a weighty, impossible promise that eventually elicits a reaction from Marlin’s blue tang, memory-challenged friend Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), “That’s a funny thing to promise. You can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun …”
As expected, things do happen to Nemo – and no sooner than on the first day of school, when he’s abducted by a well-meaning diver/dentist who imprisons the young clownfish in the aquarium in his office. Worse, Nemo is only temporarily housed in the tank, waiting to be gifted to the dentist’s terrible niece Darla (reminiscent of the destructive neighbor kid Sid from Toy Story). Structured as a double narrative that’s set in and around Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the movie switches up and back between Marlin’s determined journey to find his son, and Nemo’s equally determined attempts to make his way back to his father.
Filmmaker Andrew Stanton (director, co-writer, original story) borrowed three elements from his life that all mix together in the drink of Finding Nemo: his admittedly over-protective love of his five-year-old son; an impressionable trip to Marine World in 1992; and his childhood memories of the fish tank at the dentist’s office, in which he’d thought, What a weird place for fish from the ocean to end up. Don’t these fish miss their home? Would these fish try to escape and go back to the ocean?
While saturated with puns and jokes, it’s Finding Nemo‘s character-driven situations that buoy up the suspense and humor. Fish-eating sharks attempt to work out their issues with AA-type meetings; quintessential surfer-dude turtles cruising the “EAC” (East Australian Current) breezily instruct Marlin on the fine art of parenting; the tank gang, led by Gill (Willem DaFoe), step up as Nemo’s second family to plan an impossible escape fraught with peril. As Marlin’s sidekick Dory, the writers cleverly scramble her delicious scatter-brained humor with surprising drama – when Dory doesn’t remember something of deathly importance, the tension ratchets up even further.
Certainly Pixar and Disney have focused their periscopes on the movie’s re-release dollars; but in this case, diving back into Finding Nemo seems right, allowing us a second spectacular look. The animators have alchemized blurry background objects into sharper view, as well as enhancing the texture of the water, the colors, the varying play of light … and don’t get me started on the enormous killer whale that slowly, dramatically looms up and forward into view.
Dog-paddling to a crawl in only a few spots, the movie offers the best of many worlds. While a deep-sea tour of glorious colors and varying densities is fascinating, it’s the characters – richly drawn, invested with unique personality, wonderfully funny – that make Finding Nemo such a treat. And when the final ingredient of heart is generously splashed into the whole, we recall the movie’s initial brilliance … and fall overboard all over again.
Rating on a scale of 5 fish-schticks: 4.5
Release date: September 14, 2012
Directed by: Andrew Stanton; Co-Directed by: Lee Unkrich
Screenplay by: Andrew Stanton & Bob Peterson & David Reynolds
Story by: Andrew Stanton
Voice Cast: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem DaFoe, Brad Garrett, Allison Janney, Austin Pendleton, Joe Ranft, Geoffrey Rush, Andrew Stanton, John Ratzenberger
Running Time: 100 minutes