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TOP 100 MOVIES in 2003!
FINDING NEMO, 2003
Cast: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem DaFoe, Brad Garrett, Allison Janney, Austin Pendelton, Stephen Root, Vicki Lewis, Geoffrey Rush
When his son, Nemo is taken from him by a diver, Marlin the clown fish sets off on a journey to rescue him. Together with Dory, a blue tang fish with short term memory loss, they set off through the oceans, whilst joining a club with sharks, dodging jellyfish and hooking a ride with turtles. Whilst this is happening, Nemo and his new tank friends hatch a plan to escape from their new home.
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As introductions go, it’s hardly a rib tickler. What starts as a serene undersea tale soon turns into a tempest as director Andrew Stanton wades in with a monstrous barracuda hungry for clownfish. Several hundred dead eggs later and all that remains are a devastated father and his eponymously named son. It’s a shockingly upsetting opening, something which very few films can boast, but it is also a misleading one. For as dark as these first few minutes may be, they’re not at all indicative of how much fun Finding Nemo really is.
Once Marlin’s overprotective attitude towards Nemo is established, it paves the way for the real adventure. While the kids have the pretty colours to hook their imaginations, the clever dialogue and astute observations help reel in the more mature audience members. Vegetarian sharks, zombie-like seagulls and a 150 year old turtle with the mind of a teenager are just some of the film’s large assortment of memorable characters who each offer a unique twist on their familiar archetypes. Central to proceedings are Marlin the oxymoronic worrisome clownfish and his unwanted but unshakable partner Dory, a hilariously forgetful sidekick whose carefree demeanour ensures a fabulous friction between the duo.
In fact one could argue that this is Pixar’s finest pairing since Woody and Buzz. So natural is their rapport, thanks largely to the vocal brilliance of Albert Brooks and the pitch perfect Ellen Degeneres that despite Dory’s lack of character motivation, it often threatens to dominate the entire film. The fact that Marlin’s quest remains at the forefront then is a testament to Stanton’s extraordinary skills as a storyteller. By cutting intermittently between the open sea and Nemo’s fish tank prison, the audience gains a clearer perspective of their relationship. Not that Nemo is merely an object to be rescued. On the contrary, this little fin-afflicted fish learns to abandon his rogue-ish ways and appreciate his father’s concern for him thanks to an aquarium of slightly insane yet insightful creatures.
Any comments regarding the quality of animation would be largely superfluous. Suffice to say, Pixar instils every movement, down to the flick of a fin, with an electrifying energy making this one of their liveliest efforts to date. Any risk of becoming too frenetic, however, is thankfully balanced by the tranquil surroundings which lend an air of refinement not typically expected from an animated feature. Whereas Dreamworks would no doubt strive for realism, Pixar forms the ideal blend – a tangible world which nevertheless resists being taken too seriously. This dreamlike ambience is further enhanced by Thomas Newman’s casual score, marking a welcome break from Randy Newman’s previous tunes.
Interestingly, Finding Nemo comprises such an array of themes and genres that it never becomes overly predictable. Sure it follows a conventional structure and the ending is what you’d expect but it never adheres to one set rule. Is it an adventure or a man on a mission? And who is the hero exactly? Trying to isolate what makes this film so charming is a fruitless task, but it’s precisely this melding of ideas that prevents Nemo from becoming the episodic, run-of-the-mill journey it could so easily have become.