Finding Nemo

Finding Nemo

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Nemo's dad is called Marlin. He's a clown fish. Whenever he meets a new creature of the deep and explains who he is and why he's orange with white stripes, they say, "Tell us a joke." Boom! Boom! It's so set up, it stops being annoying, because there's no subterfuge.

The Pixar formula, coupled with Disney sentimentality, cannot be anything but a warm glow in the pit of your day. They have stuck to the golden rule - "It's the story, stupid!" - and repeated that tantalising trick of never quite resolving a life-threatening situation. Just when you think it's safe to go back into the water, something dark and menacing hoves into view.

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Life on the coral reef for Nemo and Marlin is not so different to the woodland creatures in Fantasia. The underwater colours are vivid and there's plenty of space for cute asides. Marlin may be overprotective and Nemo a little bit disabled with his "lucky fin", half the size of the other, but the community of fishes is reminiscent of small town America in the Fifties.

Once the plot leaves the ramp, it becomes a selection of stand-up routines, such as the 12-step sharks, and death defying encounters with things out of Jaws. Like all great yarns, it is a journey, fraught with danger, carrying a label that reads "Father's Day".

It is typical of the Pixar writing team to set an impossible task and then attempt to accomplish it with a good deal of humour. What happens to Woody in Toy Story 2 is a walk in the park compared to Nemo's probs right here. He swims too far into the deep ocean and is captured by a diver and taken in a boat to Sydney, Australia, where he ends up in a dentist's waiting room with a bunch of weirdly wonderful tank fill, the aquarium equivalent of Andy's Room.

How will timid Marlin, with the help of a flat blue fish, called Dory ("Yes, I'm a natural blue"), who suffers short-term memory loss, possibly find the little fella, let alone set him free? Well, Dory can read English and speak whale and there are friends along the way, like the giant turtle surf dudes, to give assistance and encouragement.

The two stories run concurrently - Marlin and Dory's adventures on the undersea current and Nemo and the gang's escape attempts. They are, in certain respects, separate movies, with their own special characters and scenarios. There is a Sid-U-Like in Nemo's section, called Darla, who represents Hells Kids and wants to take him home in a plastic bag, while Marlin and Dory suffer a Pinocchio experience inside a whale.

The standard of Pixar is so high that it seems impolite to niggle at the edges of such an inventive feel-good film, but Marlin and Dory don't match up to Woody and Buzz, or even Sulley and Mike from Monsters Inc. They are fun and so are Nemo's pals, but, hey! Infinity and beyond? Not quite.

Reviewed on: 02 Oct 2003
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Underwater Pixar animated adventure of a clown fish who searches for his only son.
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Director: Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich

Writer: Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson, David Reynolds

Starring: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe, Brad Garrett, Allison Janney, Austin Pendleton, Stephen Root, Vicki Lewis, Joe Ranft, Geoffrey Rush, Elizabeth Perkins, Andrew Stanton, Barry Humphries, Eric Bana, Bill Hunter, LuLu

Year: 2003

Runtime: 100 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US

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