"Finding Nemo" - Another Winner for Pixar
by Donna Schwartz Mills
© 2003 by Donna Schwartz Mills
Studio: Pixar and Walt Disney Pictures
MPAA Rating: G
Mom Rating: 5 out of 5
Kid Rating: 4 out of 5
Cast: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe, Brad Garrett, Allison Janney, Barry Humphries, Geoffrey Rush, Vicki Lewis, John Ratzenberger, Stephen Root, Erik Per Sullivan
Writers: Bob Peterson, David Reynolds, Andrew Stanton
Directors: Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich
The character of Marlin is all too familiar in this age of fear and Amber Alerts. His only son, Nemo, has been taken away from him, and Marlin sets out to rescue him and bring him home safely. If this was a live-action movie, it would star Arnold Schwarzenegger or Harrison Ford -- but "Finding Nemo" is a Pixar film, set under the sea... and Marlin is a little clown fish voiced by Albert Brooks.
Brooks' trademarked neurotic persona works well here, for Marlin is an intensely overprotective father, fearful of letting Nemo out of his sight long enough to spend a day at school. He sees danger lurking everywhere and so when his son is caught by a scuba diving dentist, you can almost here him crying "I told you so."
Then again, Marlin's fears are very well taken, because this is not the underwater realm of "The Little Mermaid." Marlin and Nemo live in a fish-eat-fish world where danger lurks around every coral reef. However, there aren't any real villians in this movie - just animals with natural animal instincts. OK, there is a truly funny bit with a trio of sharks in a 10-step program ("Fish are friends, not food"). Even the human who spirits Nemo away is more banal than evil, only wishing to give the little clown fish to his young niece as a birthday gift. (Darla, the niece, is the closest thing to a villain as she has not learned yet how to care for a pet... but we don't get to know her well enough to determine if she's mean or just immature.)
Once again, the folks at Pixar (led by writer/director Andrew Stanton) have created a stunning cast of memorable characters voiced by actors who include Willem DaFoe, Geoffrey Rush, Allison Janney and Barry Humphries. And the funniest of all is Ellen DeGeneres, who portrays a sweet blue tang fish named Dory who accompanies Marlin on his search for Nemo. Dory, who suffers from short-term memory loss, provides much of the comedy here and the interaction between these two characters is delightful... as is the growth exhibited by all the characters by the end of the film.
Now, a word of caution for the littlest members of our family. One of the moms in our group was annoyed that the movie begins with a "Bambi"-like tragedy, leaving Marlin a widower. But this is not a gratuitous plot device - it truly does serve to provide insight into why Marlin is so protective and fearful. There are also a few scary scenes that had our four- and five-year-olds crawling into our laps. Fortunately, these pass pretty quickly and everyone can settle back into simply enjoying the show.
Mostly, the movie is funny - and beautiful to look at. We've become so used to Pixar's dazzling computer graphics that it is easy to overlook the technical advances they make with each successive film. The underwater realm inhabited by Marlin and Dory is breathtaking, with coral reefs, sunken ships, swarms of jellyfish and more. But the scenes that take place above ground in Sydney, Australia may be even more impressive. There are times when you may have to remind yourself that these are computer-generated images -- they look so real.
This movie is rated G, for everyone - and audiences of all ages can take that to heart. After all, heart is an element that's plentiful here.
Donna Schwartz Mills took film classes in college and spent 13 years working in the entertainment industry before "retiring" to marry a "non-pro" (Variety's term for anyone in any other business) and become a mom. Today, she's lucky if she can attend two "R" rated films per year -- but she feeds her movie habit by dragging her little girl to every family film that comes out, often on opening day. She says she can't wait for her daughter to turn 17.
Donna is Webmaster Mommy http://www.ParentPreneur.com and editor/owner of
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