Pixar, the animation company behind Monsters, Inc., A Bug’s Life, and Toy Story, has delivered another gem in Finding Nemo. The film follows the clown fish Marlin’s trek across the ocean to find Nemo, his son who was captured by a diver and deposited in a dentist’s aquarium. The journey takes us from the breathtaking beauty of the Great Barrier Reef through alternatingly perilous and humorous encounters with deep-sea life. Meanwhile, Nemo and his new cohorts scheme to escape the aquarium, throw themselves out the dentist’s window, cross a highway, and jump into the ocean.
Visually, Finding Nemo is spectacular. The animators render theses scenes with exquisite detail and vibrant color, reaching beyond mere CGI-wizardry to artistry. The voices of the film, anchored by Albert Brooks as the neurotic Marlin and Ellen DeGeneres as the frantic and forgetful Dory, help bring these characters to life. The script is witty, and the pacing serves to keep the audience engaged. Thematically, the film examines friendship and family, especially the complicated dance of dependence and independence between father and son. While there are jokes that only adults will get, the film avoids the clever split personality of a Shrek. Finding Nemo is aimed primarily at kids (without being condescending). However, adults should enjoy the simple humor and classic storytelling techniques and characters.
While the story may not be particularly inventive and the characters don’t live much beyond the viewing, Finding Nemo is thoroughly entertaining. More importantly, its animation takes the industry a small step forward. These visuals demand to be seen on the big screen.