Finding Nemo Review
More than a decade ago this underwater adventure film swam it's way into everyone’s hearts and became a staple of every 2000’s kid’s childhood. Everybody had seen it. Everyone owned it on VHS (remember those?). It was acclaimed by critics and loved by audiences of all ages. A classic to behold. I happen to be one of the 2000s kids, and I am no exception to this film's impact. Like everyone else, if you asked me about this film I would tell you it's great, but let me tell you why.
Let's start with the story. This film tells the tale of an overprotective father who loses his son and seeks out to find him, hence the movie’s title. On paper, this movie is bland, unexciting and would probably be forgotten in about one week’s time. This, however is not what happened. Far from it. With Finding Nemo it's less about the journey itself and more about what happens on the way. During his quest to find his son, Marlin and his forgetful companion Dory find themselves in many creative situations, such as outsmarting a group of sharks, escaping an angler fish and even getting eaten by a whale. Another thing that helps carry this film is the heart. At the beginning of the movie it makes the audience really feel the relationship between Marlin and his only remaining son, Nemo and it does leave room for some really emotional scenes and makes it really easy to root for him. Another source of heart is with Nemo and the Tank Gang. We really do feel the desires the characters have to escape into the vast, mysterious ocean, and when they attempt to do so you really do pull for them. This film is an example of how a simple story can be turned into a very fun and memorable one.
Now we move on to the visuals. Nowadays they still really hold up and are on par with most recent animated films, but at the time this is just incredible. I’m getting goosebumps just thinking of how great they looked at the time. The overall quality is amazing. Keep in mind that this was released only a year from Blue Sky’s Ice Age. The quality of that movie’s animation really falls flat today, but if Finding Nemo were released this year instead I would have still thought the quality was pretty darn good. On to the character design, they are pretty much stylized versions of their real counterparts, and they are given human features to help the audience connect with them (I’d have to give them props for giving clownfish teeth and making it work, because that could have gone horribly wrong). It really works for a film like this. It gives them just enough realism to make us feel like they actually are fish but enough cartooniness to bring fun to the movie. The character animation is also good. It is pretty clear that the filmmakers spent a long time studying the way fish swim, which gives it believability. Don’t get me wrong, it can still be exaggerated when it wants to be, and it does that well. All that being said, I cannot finish talking about the visuals until I get into the backgrounds. These animators could have just made every single area of the ocean look exactly the same, as little is really known about these underwater habitats, but they decided to go the extra mile and do a bit of research. It really pays off. Every place the characters would go is different, intriguing and full of vibrant colors. This helps add variety to the scenery. Don’t let the 2003 release date fool you. This is one of the best looking animated films of all time.
Its now time we talk about this movie’s loveable characters. Starting with the title character, he’s actually probably the worst character in the whole movie. Now that’s not saying a lot. I do find him likable, but he is somewhat bland and has a bit of that “generic child character” feel to him. I feel he relies too much on his relationships with the other characters to be investing. Moving on to Marlin, he’s the overprotective father figure. That is a trope I normally can’t stand (seriously Hollywood, how hard is it to imagine realistic parent characters?) but in this film, it kind of works due to the heart-wrenching opening sequence that really makes the audience sympathize with him. Now I will talk about this movie’s strength- it’s side characters. There’s the forgetful, big hearted Dory who is likely the best character in the movie because of the optimism and fun she brings to the film. This character was so beloved that her species, the blue tang is referred to as dory by many. There’s Crush, the laid-back and easygoing sea turtle who brings us one of the many memorable scenes where Marlin and Dory ride the current to Sydney. Then there’s the Tank Gang, a group of fish trying to escape the tank they live in. Each member has their own personality to contribute to this movie, and they definitely do a great job of it. There’s Mister Ray, Nemo’s jolly and very musical teacher who is, like the other characters, loveable. Now, finally we get to Darla, the antagonist of the film. She’s just a little child who wants to take one of the tank fish home but she is excellently characterized as if she is some sort of monster, as the film is told from the fish’s perspective. Finding Nemo has a great cast of characters not even Dory would forget.
The film’s humor is also- you guessed it- great. Of course, it contains plenty of hilarious gags. One thing it did that I loved was it they applied voices to things animals do (play the “mine” clip). Another main source of humor is Dory and the way she forgets everything- Nemo’s name, conversations that she was having, what was going on and pretty much everything else you can think of. You would think that would get annoying but the writers successfully wrote her part so it would be funny every time. The other characters also deliver humor as well, including Crush’s constant use of the word “dude” (again, sounds annoying but not in this case). The tank gang also provide humor with their exaggerated personalities, particularly Jacques the shrimp and Peach the starfish. Slapstick humor definitely plays a role in making this film hysterical, for example there is a Hilarious scene where a pelican breaks into the dentist’s office. (play clip). One last noteworthy source of humor is the way it portrays Darla. I mentioned it when I talked about the characters but now I will go into its comedic value. The way the fish see her as extremely dangerous makes for a lot of very funny situations. I find that whenever a movie looks at something from a different point of view that completely changes the perception of the character it makes for some great comedy. Having said that, I have a little complaint about the movie’s humor. It doesn't happen very often but I find it's worth addressing. This movie does occasionally try to pander to children, but it doesn't really have much of an impact on the overall experience of watching the film. Like many animated classics, this film's humor helps give it charm.
The music in Finding Nemo is generally not that noticeable, but honestly, I think it's better off that way. Most of the scenes are dialogue- heavy and a prominent score would be distracting. However, in the brief moments where a score would benefit this film, it does give it to us. The best example of that would be when Darla makes an appearance she is introduced by shrill, rapid bows of violin. That alone shows the terror that the tank fish feel when she is present. There's also the end credits song “Beyond The Sea” by Robbie Williams. I find it a bit annoying, as that's not really my preferred music type, but I’ll admit it's probably a perfect choice for the particular movie. I could say I don't think of Finding Nemo whenever I hear it, but that would be a flat out lie. The music may not always impact the movie, but when it does, it really does.
Lastly I will give you an overview of the voice actors who gave the characters life. Alexander Gould plays Nemo, and he’s quite fitting for the role, especially considering he’s a child actor. I feel like he really brings the curiosity of the character without being whiny, something that child actors are very prone to. Then there’s Albert Brooks as Marlin who brings out his overly concerned tendency but also delivers the inner pain he feels about losing his son. Ellen DeGeneres voices Dory, and she does an absolutely irreplaceable job with the role. Words cannot express how well she did. In fact, that may be the best aspect of the whole movie. The rest of the characters are very well-casted and their voice actors did an excellent job. The characters are well-written, but they wouldn’t have been quite as memorable if it weren’t for these voice actors.
Finding Nemo isn’t just amazing, it is a landmark in animation history. It is The Lion King of the 2000’s. This is not without reason. Finding Nemo offers a simple yet very charming story, breathtaking animation, a cast of unforgettable characters and a wonderful voice cast to portray them. For that I give Finding Nemo an A.