Finding Nemo (2003)
Main cast: Albert Brooks (Marlin), Ellen DeGeneres (Dory), Alexander Gould (Nemo), Willem Dafoe (Gill), Brad Garrett (Bloat), Allison Janney (Peach), Austin Pendleton (Gurgle), Stephen Root (Bubbles), Vicki Lewis (Deb/Flo), Joe Ranft (Jacques), Geoffrey Rush (Nigel), Andrew Stanton (Crush), Elizabeth Perkins (Coral), Nicholas Bird (Squirt), and Bob Peterson (Mr Ray)
Directors: Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich


Eh, talking fishies. Worse, irritating talking fishies. Are Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres - oh, especially DeGeneres - ever this irritating? Their Marlin and Dory are exactly what toilet bowls are created for. While we're at it, let's flush Nemo as well. The cooler fishies like Gill can live though.

Finding Nemo is a visually impressive animated feature. If you've seen anything by Pixar, you'll have an idea of what this movie looks like, only with lots of water thrown in. Watching this movie filled with adult tics and neuroses underneath the kiddie facade, I can't help but to wonder though: what happened to those cartoons that are fun and wholesome without having to be cynical to entertain the masses? Why do we want our kids to grow up so fast?

This movie tells the story of a clown fish named Marlin. An attack by a shark destroyed his family, leaving only an egg. This egg hatches to Nemo. Cue to, er, later, Nemo is now a kid eager to go to school and experience life, but Marlin is paranoid and over-cautious to the point that he is smothering Nemo without realizing it. After a receiving very embarrassing dressing-down from his father, Nemo decides to rebel only to end up being caught by a diver. Oops. Marlin, distraught, now has to find a way to Sydney to save his son, who is now living in a dentist's aquarium. Even with the aid of Dory, a blue hippo tang fish afflicted with Memento-like short term memory, it will be an almost impossible feat for Marlin to save Nemo.

There are some very clever moments in this movie, especially the hilarious tribute - or parody - to Jaws and Pinocchio. Bruce the repentant shark and his Carnivore Twelve-Step program mates are amusing as well, but for the most part, these adult jokes - I use "adult" in a non-sexual context in this instance - don't gel too well with the more kiddie-oriented messages of loving your daddy and discovering one's true courage within. It doesn't help that Marlin spends the entire movie whining, moaning, and mocking the ever-perky Dory, making him a total schmuck in my book. Dory is irritating, but she's providing aid to Marlin when no one else will, so some courtesy from that douchebag clown fish will be nice.

Meanwhile, Nemo's aquarium mates, a more delightful bunch led by the oh-wise and oh-so-weary angelfish Gill, are planning their own escape, after they've indoctrinated Nemo into the fraternity first, that is (Nemo's new name is Sharkbait, by the way).

For too long, Finding Nemo flounders, trying to find its momentum. The movie takes a while to build up, only to sag as it relies more and more on Marlin's verbally drilling a hole in my skull as he and Dory blunder their way through. The movie perks up when it focuses on Nemo and the Aquarium Gang plotting to escape, and I end up wishing that the movie focuses solely on them. Nemo has plenty of room to grow as a character, and he does, and he's the more interesting character here compared to his father. This movie needs more of him, not his whining loser of a father and his codependent blue punching bag.

Only during the last half-hour when Nemo and the Aquarium Gang's escape plans clash excitingly with Marlin's rescue attempt does Finding Nemo make my adrenaline rush for the first time. This late act of the movie is good. The other parts of the movie, not so much.

Finding Nemo can't find its rhythm and pacing and it is also too self-conscious of both the Very Important Messages it is sending out to kids and the Very Smart Injokes To Make Adults Smirk Knowingly. It's like an episode of Seinfeld masquerading as a cartoon. I find this movie watchable, but a part of me misses the good old days when cartoons entertain kids and adults alike without having to be so cynical while they're at it.

Rating: 72


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