Finding Nemo (2003)
Finding Nemo (2003)

Genre: Fairy Tale Running Time: 1 hr. 40 min.

Release Date: May 30th, 2003 MPAA Rating: G

Director: Andrew Stanton Actors: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe, Brad Garrett, Allison Janney, Stephen Root, Geoffrey Rush, Elizabeth Perkins




arlin the clownfish (Albert Brooks) and his wife Coral (Elizabeth Perkins) have just moved into a different part of the ocean – with a new anemone house, a great view, a pleasant community, and a fresh batch of eggs (around 400) – ready to officially make them parents. But in the blink of an eye, it’s all destroyed – a predatory fish knocks Marlin unconscious and snaps up Coral and the entire nest of roe. When he awakes, he discovers that only a single egg remains.

But that lone offspring grows up to be Nemo, an enthusiastic, curious, energetic clownfish with a deformed fin – a very special child who is ready to attend school. Interestingly, however, the movie really isn’t about Nemo as much as it is about his father, who, in part because of the traumatic circumstances surrounding Nemo’s existence, tends to be overprotective – or like any rational, concerned parent. And his angst is confirmed when a pair of divers capture Nemo (for display in a dentist’s office aquarium) when he swims too close to their boat.

With its classically dark fairy tale opening – like “Sleeping Beauty” or “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” or “Cinderella” – or the defining, formative moment in “The Lion King,” “Finding Nemo” begins with a moment of horror or affliction to build up a stirring odyssey about family, friends (or the fraternal bonds of tankhood), fear, negative reinforcement/positive motivation, trust, courage, confidence, dependence/independence, and perseverance. It’s the kind of story rife with comic misadventures but also brimming with moving human drama – personified by anthropomorphic fish. And, like in “Toy Story,” the humans present as many challenging obstacles as enemies of the same kind/species – lending to action, camaraderie, and complex escape attempts/rescue operations worthy of “Mission: Impossible.” Many of the predicaments are humorous yet suspenseful to match the mix of family-friendly thematic elements (even if extreme coincidence comes to the rescue on occasion).

“Finding Nemo” is also stuffed with outstanding supporting characters, including a pack of Australian sharks vowing not to eat other fish, a tough, seawise Moorish idol perfectly voiced by Willem Dafoe, a thrill-seeking turtle (Andrew Stanton, who also directs), and an empty-headed, perpetually jovial, singing and frolicking blue tang named Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) – suffering from short term memory loss and unwavering positivity. Dory is one of Pixar’s crowning achievements (perhaps worthy of her own spin-off), generating comic relief and poignant drama in equal measures. Working in conjunction with the sensational character designs and voice acting is the studio’s regular high standard of computer modeling and animation, which astounds in the underwater environments and looks spectacular in the little details of feathers, scales, fins, or Bruce the shark’s jiggling jowls. The visuals are as sharp as the scripting, succeeding with laughs, thrills, heartache, and unforgettable characterizations to craft an animated masterpiece about the lengths a father will go – here, traversing the entirety of the ocean – to retrieve his lost son.

– Mike Massie

  • 9/10