Review: “Finding Nemo”

What can I say about this movie? One word – Brilliant. Pixar have had a long track record of having yet to make anything less than a very good film but even though its almost unanimously agreed that all of them have been great, it seems everyone still has their preferences.

To give you an idea of my taste I just adore “A Bug’s Life” which I think is pretty much a pitch perfect movie with great characters and story. I enjoyed “Toy Story” but wasn’t a huge fan of it, the sequel however is an absolute classic hands down. After ‘Bugs’ and ‘TS2’ though came “Monsters Inc” which again was a really good movie but I wasn’t a huge fan of as the “Where the Wild Things Are”-cloned concept was fine but like TS1 the film got too juvenile and sentimentally sweet for me with the humour just worth the odd giggle more than anything else and only the awesome ‘doors’ sequence standing out in my mind.

‘Nemo’ however has now taken the crown – its at least equal best with TS2 and the more I think about it the more its rising to be stand out Number One. EVERYTHING about this movie is practically flawless – the animation, the characters, the story, the emotional resonance, the humour, etc. is incredible. Its a film you can’t help but get swept up in right from the get-go, in fact I can’t remember a film where I really ran the gamut of emotions from happy and awed to despair and terror – and this film manages to do all that in just the opening five-minute sequence.

Its a 100 minute underwater road movie but never ever gets slow or tired and even some Disney-style father-son sentimentality bits oddly enough generate genuine heart and warmth. One quite interesting thing is that in a time when animation has become formulaic it bucks the trend. There’s no ‘villain’ of the piece even though our heroic duo head into some quite dark and tense sequences, there’s no need for silly singing, and like any story involving a journey the supporting characters come & go whilst never popping up out of place for story convenience.

Even Gil, the fish tank character which Wilem Dafoe’s voice looks right from the start to be of the classic ‘bad guy’ animated mold instead turns out to be a strong and multi-faceted character. What few one-dimensional ones that are there though deliver some of the best gags of the film such as the French crayfish, the shock-inflating puffer fish, the hilarious ‘totally dude’ turtles, and even a determined flock of Aussie seagulls whose vocabulary consists of one word – ‘Mate!’ and first time I heard that I could NOT stop laughing (although I hear in the US print it says ‘Mine!’, both work superbly well).

The voice talent is superb – a few years back when she was a complete unknown Ellen DeGeneres hosted the Emmys and gave one of the best comic performances I’ve ever seen and which she had yet to even vaguely match with her TV or film work which has been very ordinary and at times annoying when it became overly political. With ‘Dory’ though she tops that – short of maybe Robin Williams in Aladdin, this is one of those legendary comic voice performances that will go down in modern film history.

The ‘short term memory loss’ may be a gimmick but its utilised so well and works perfectly for the character. Similary Albert Brooks does spectacular work as Marlin with the actors trademark neuroses carrying over superbly. All the supporting cast is uniformly excellent from Barry ‘Dame Edna’ Humphries as Bruce the Great White Shark to the likes of Alison Janney, Eric Bana & Geoffrey Rush. Even the great “Toy Story 2” felt like some of its characters were underused but here ALL the characters get a fair amount of screentime and each use it to maximum capacity without every going over or becoming even slightly annoying.

Visuals wise its simply beautiful. The reef colours and water/sunlight reflection, the darkness of the rusted WW2 submarine, the beauty of a simple fishtank, the inside of whale or a field of jellyfish – its all done in a way that’s so breathingtakingly real and yet beautifully animated at the same time. I also love the fact that whilst some of these undersea creatures have personalities, others like whales or jellyfish are non-talking forces of nature exactly like we see them and it makes certain sequences even more compelling.

One really impressive thing is that the Pixar guys did a surprisingly accurate rendering of Sydney’s harbour with the Botanic Gardens, Opera House, CBD, Harbour Bridge, North Head, etc. all right where they’re supposed to be which makes the one or two errors a little confusing such as they seem to have put the dentist’s office right in the middle of where the city zoo is, and of course two silly little cultural references about wallabies – otherwise its pretty much spot on. Funnily enough even the gag about the Prime Minister could be accurate (his residence is right near that area).

The humour for me is a big draw, I couldn’t stop laughing for about 2/3-3/4 of this movie. From the many gags in the fish tank (I LOVE the Frenchie and the starfish) to the sharks, the turtles, the birds, etc. There’s many sequences and they’re not only memorable but add a whole lot of texture to the movie. There’s little anti-pollution messages in here but never overt, all done with class and all in a way that its necessary to the plot.

This is simply a perfect family film designed to appeal just as much to adults as to kids and pretty much exceeds even “Shrek” for the crown of best CG animated film ever. Dare I say this is a film in the league of “The Lion King” – a cinematic classic which live-action movies this year will have to struggle to grab the ‘best film of the year’ title. Simply the most entertaining movie you’ll see all year.