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Finding Nemo (Frank's Take)

01/07/2003. Contributed by Frank Ochieng

Buy Finding Nemo in the USA - or Buy Finding Nemo in the UK

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In the movie Finding Nemo, our Frank finds a vibrant stroke of color and candidness in a simple little story based in Australia's Great Barrier Reef regarding the emotional connection between a worried father and his free-spirited son ... who both happen to be clownfish.

Finding Nemo (2003) Buena Vista Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios
1 hr. 41 mins.
Starring (the voices of): Albert Brooks, Alexander Gould, Ellen DeGeneres, Eric Bana, Erica Beck, Willem Dafoe, Brad Garrett, Barry Humphries, Allison Janney
Directed by: Andrew Stanton

There are a few things that folks can definitely count on in life to happen: the onslaught of tedious taxes, the ridiculously high cost of living, and taking the inevitable eternal dirt nap once their number is up on this revolving planet.

Of course there is also another consistent factor to contemplate in that of the durable moviemaking outfit known as Pixar, the reliable animation studio responsible for delivering a string of memorable computer-generated family films. After all, the studio’s impressive list is quite enjoyable if not immediately considered instant classics: Toy Story, Monsters, Inc., A Bug’s Life, etc.

Finding Nemo

Well, Pixar certainly continues the trend of ushering out favorable family-oriented flicks with the latest underwater adventure gem Finding Nemo. If Pixar was fishing for another big catch in their stable of entertaining hits, Nemo is the prized filmmaking flounder that takes the absolute bait.

Writer-director Andrew Stanton (who co-directed the aforementioned A Bug’s Life) gleefully adds a vibrant stroke of color and candidness to a simple little story based in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef regarding the emotional connection between a worried father and his free-spirited son who both happen to be clownfish.

Papa Marlin (Albert Brooks) is constantly fretting over his precious son Nemo (Alexander Gould). Yes, poor Marlin is indeed controlling and a tad bit overprotective when it comes to his offspring Nemo. In fact, the reasoning behind Marlin’s watchful eye of Nemo is due in part to the previous ugly episode involving a regrettable shark attack claiming the livelihood of Marlin’s wife and their numerous loving eggs. Since that unfortunate incident, Marlin understandably doesn’t want to relive another tragedy and lose his only revered son Nemo in the wake of losing his other beloved kin. Thus, Marlin has no choice in the matter but to be paranoid about his protection over the giddy Nemo.

Soon, Marlin realizes that he cannot continue to show restraint against his only child forever. Much to his chagrin, the concerned father gives the youngster the green light to attend school and experience a little bit of freedom. Eagerly, the liberated Nemo quickly overdoes his freedom by clumsily becoming too boisterous for his own good.

Thanks to his lack of responsibility in being careful and at the same time acting like an attention-getting spoiled brat in front of his little colleagues, Nemo swims off unknowingly into dangerous and suspicious territory. Naturally, our pesky protagonist instantly lands into the net of a determined diver/dentist looking to gather all sorts of interesting sea life for his aquarium back home.

Hence, the captured Nemo is officially in the hands of a stranger and now realizes why his nervous old man Marlin was such a fussbucket concerning his safety in the first place. Plus, it doesn’t help matters none that Nemo was sporting a vulnerable and injured fin to begin with.

So now the very same reality that Marlin was trying to fight off from the get-go has actually occurred—his only treasured son is missing and in potential danger. Despite the horrible consequences of facing his lingering fears in terms of tracking his periled son down while facing the unknown ominous elements throughout his travels in tricky waters, Marlin’s love and devotion for Nemo overtakes his obvious uncertainties. And so both Marlin and Nemo are involved in separate perilous adventures that will challenge their resiliency and faith in one another.

As Marlin methodically sets out to be reunited with his mischievous bubble-blowing tyke, he comes across an unlikely sidekick in the form of spunky Regal Blue Tang Dory (Ellen DeGeneres). She’s somewhat of a distraction to Marlin at first courtesy of her nutty ways and infuriating inability to recall the simplest of details.

Still, she’s good company for Marlin to take some of the stress and strain off in his search for the reckless Nemo. Also, Dory is surprisingly helpful in the hunt and serves as the needed comic foil for a storyline that’s otherwise cautionary and poignant.

In the meanwhile, the lost and confused Nemo is encountering his own band of notable personalities. While trapped in a reinforced fish tank, Nemo has time to mingle and plot his escape with fellow sea creature "prisoners". They all have one common goal and that is to be released and return to the carefree life in the water.

Among the imprisoned gang include the likes of wily stuffy veteran Gill (Willem Dafoe), caring starfish sweetie pie Peach (Allison Janney) and old fuddy-duddy turtle Crush (as played by this film’s director/writer Stanton). Together, these kooky caged characters must work diligently and learn to take on adversity at any cost. Teamwork is the key ingredient for these lovable waterlogged misfits. Fittingly, it’s kind of sweet to see how the unruly bunch care for Nemo’s need to be freed and sent back into the arms, er…the fins of his harried father Marlin.

Finding Nemo is uniquely refreshing and it works on all emotional cylinders. Aesthetically, the film is breathtaking with its visual cadence. As usual, Pixar’s animation is truly rousing in its three-dimensional presentation as it allows the audience to soak up the ambitious imagery being energetically presented.

Stanton’s narrative shows its amusing chops convincingly and it’s never afraid to introduce traces of sadness and turmoil that compliments the cutesy moments. Some ultra-sensitive children may be thrown for a loop by the dark shades of suffering and loss that is the overall theme to this celluloid watery wonderland. Quite frankly, this is very therapeutic in some aspects to be honest.

But for the most part, Finding Nemo will gently subject impressionable youngsters to these necessary lessons of life that they need to know exist in this complicated world that they are yet to comprehend completely.

If Nemo is somewhat cynical in its tale of lost loves at the expense of death or other uncontrollable circumstances, it’s better that they understand these devastating obstacles within a compelling and chaotic CG fish fable that caters to their innocent yet unanswered curiosities.

Maybe the seesaw exploits of Nemo and company won’t erase the melodious memories as demonstrated by the other Pixar-oriented pictures that continue to shine in the cinematic enthusiasm of kids and adults alike. However, it’s thrilling to know that spry and meticulously made family CG films are becoming more imaginative and innovative in the production value department.

More importantly, Finding Nemo has an intriguing story to tell that’s every bit as heartbreaking as it is hearty. This is truly one delightful deep-sea display worth blindly diving into hastily without worrying about the rocky surface below.

Frank Ochieng

(c) Frank Ochieng 2003

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