Pixar Studios might well be the best thing to have ever happened to the Walt Disney conglomerate.
"Finding Nemo" (out today on DVD and Blu-ray) is at heart the love story of two clownfish - Marlin and his son Nemo. The pair get separated in the Great Barrier Reef early in the film, and for the remainder of the high energy 1.5 hours, the two work to find each other again. Marlin (voiced admirably by Albert Brooks) is an overprotective and fearful father - the result of losing Nemo’s two million siblings along with their mother to a predator - who is forced to seek out his son with the help of Dori (voiced by Ellen Degeneres), a blue tang with short term memory loss and a feverishly sunny outlook on life. The comedic journey to Sydney Harbor, where Nemo is being held in a dentist’s aquarium, is a wild, merry ride of a rescue.
Brooks and our girl Ellen are so much fun to "watch" in this film... and the secondary cast of characters are a veritable who’s-who of industry awards. Nine-year-old Alexander Gould voices the title character (you’ll recognize him perhaps from "Ally McBeal" and "Malcolm in the Middle") with style. Three well-known Aussie actors - Barry Humphries (you know him as Dame Edna), Eric Bana and Bruce Spence of "Mad Max" fame - provide the voices of a trio of wanna-be-vegetarian sharks. Add in Geoffrey Rush as a gossipy pelican, Willem Dafoe as a gillfish turned gang leader, Allison Janney as a stylish starfish, Vicki Lewis from news Radio as a damsel fish in crisis, and Brad Garret from "Everybody Loves Raymond" as an over-emotional blowfish... and you’ve filled the tank with quite a school of characters.
But perhaps the best character to be found in "Nemo" is the animation itself, which during its three years of development (as usual) reinvented the medium. Imagine how difficult it is to animate water, much less the teeming life of the reef, along with a seemingly endless array of bubbles, debris, and ripples. I bring it to the fore now because when you watch this film you won’t notice it at all; Pixar does that good a job sweeping you along with the current.
"Finding Nemo" is no more than a brilliantly executed exploration into the parent-child relationship using fish as actors in an animated underwater environment; but it subtly proves, as Pixar does so well, that there are some things - love, trust, hatred and friendship - that transcend the human genotype. If toys, monsters and fish are people too, how do we justify deliberate differentiations in culture, race or sexuality?
In the end, all of the elements of classy filmmaking are here - action, pace, plot, character and theme. Sure to please children for the bravura and color of its characters, and parents for the silent nod to their experiences and emotions in the most difficult and rewarding job imaginable, and the rest of us for its universal depictions of friendship and affection, "Finding Nemo" finds its mark.
There’s a banquet of special features (see below) which makes this new home entertainment release a MUST-HAVE! Just keep swimming!
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Blu-ray 3D Disc: