Film number five for PIXAR Animation Studios, and they show no sign of easing up on the heartstrings. This was the first of their works to win the Academy Award for “Best Animated Feature Film” and it would not be the last. PIXAR was on a roll, and there seemed to be no stopping them, but why? Of all five feature films, what was so special about Finding Nemo? To put it simply, it was brutal. The subject matter here is darker than anything that had come before it..
We follow Marlin the clown-fish as he searches for his only son, Nemo, coming across a fish with short-term memory loss, sharks and jellyfish. Meanwhile, Nemo finds himself in the fish-tank of an Australian dentist with a bizarre collection of new friends. Yes, PIXAR really did make a film with kidnapping so early in their existence. It’s really hefty stuff for a children’s film, handled with all the gravitas it deserves. At no point does it feel like the butt of a joke, but that doesn’t mean that Finding Nemo is without humour. A huge amount of that humour comes from Dory, the aforementioned fish with short-term memory loss. It isn’t the memory loss that’s funny here, it’s Dory as a character, portrayed with perfectly quick wit by LGBT icon Ellen DeGeneres. Her consistent optimism is infectious, and once you’ve heard Just Keep Swimming, you’ll be humming it all day. Marlin’s dry humour (ironic for a fish) contrasts her perfectly. This sarcastic comedy is a noticeable staple in PIXAR’s box of characteristics. Between Mr Potato Head, Slim the stick insect, Roz, and now Marlin, there’s enough sarcasm to shape a whole generation.
Nemo is never forgotten about, with the film returning us back to him and his new friends in the fish-tank regularly. There’s the bubble-obsessed Bubbles, the hygiene-obsessed Gurgle, the two-minded Deb, the easily irritated Bloat, the cynical Gill, and the voice of reason Peach. Each of them has a unique personality and has been affected by their “imprisonment” in different ways. Gill is voiced by the particular charisma of Willem Defoe, who is yet to disappoint me with a performance. This was my first role of his and was by no means the last. Gill’s determination to escape is re-invigorated by Nemo’s arrival, but is brought into question by the risks to Nemo’s life. Every member of the tank crew is drawn to him, and become determined to help him in any way they can. Everybody should have friends like that.
Something that Finding Nemo does phenomenally well is display just how vast the ocean is. Each frame is eclipsed by it and the story is driven by it. It takes Marlin and Dory almost the entire film to cross it and on their way they encounter no shortage of perils. There are sharks, jellyfish, crabs, pelicans, and an angler-fish. This sea-life was brought to life through a huge amount of dedication by the development team, who spent months researching aquatic life. It is astonishingly accurate, but apparently the accuracy wasn’t enough. Despite a message that all marine life should be treated with the care they need, many children took the message of all drains leading to the ocean much more seriously. There are many reports of children flushing their fish down the toilet in an attempt to return them home, but sadly none would make it. There are countless filtration systems and water treatment plants along the way. If you remember nothing else of this review, please remember this:
All drains may lead to the ocean, but that journey is fraught with peril.
Until Next Time…