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Finding Nemo

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Finding Nemo

Starring: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres
Director: Andrew Stanton
Rated: G
RunTime: 101 Minutes
Release Date: May 2003
Genres: Animation, Comedy, Kids

*Also starring: Joe Ranft, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe, Brad Garrett, Allison Janney, Austin Pendleton, Vicki Lewis

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

After exploring toys, bugs and monsters, Pixar turns its attention this year to sea creatures in FINDING NEMO. The film's wonderful voice talent features a new comedic duo, Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres, playing fish named Marlin and Dory. Brooks, who can do worried better than just about anyone, plays a single dad -- sadly, kids' movies rarely feature families with both parents -- whose son, Nemo (voiced by Alexander Gould), is off to his first day at school. The ever-paranoid Marlin fears that harm will come to his son, as it does. The rest of the movie has two parallel story threads, one about Marlin, with Dory's help, trying to find Nemo, and another about Nemo trying to escape his new confinement in order to be reunited with his father.

Most of movie's enjoyment comes from DeGeneres's goofy rendition of the doofus Dory, a blue tang fish with a short term memory problem and with a brain about the size of a grain of sand. Her best scene occurs when she decides to mimic a whale in order to converse with it. DeGeneres was born to do whale.

Brooks's material isn't nearly as good as DeGeneres's. The best he ever gets is his on-going joke that he's a clown fish who is constitutionally incapable of telling a funny joke. Whenever he attempts to tell one, he starts rambling and ends up losing his fish audience long before he ever gets anywhere near a punch line.

The problem with the voice talent is that they overwhelm their fish characters more so than any previous Pixar movie. They seem less like talking fish than human actors are verbally hamming it up in front of unseen microphones. Our packed audience, filled with munchkins, found lots to like but nothing to generate big laughs.

More so than the previous Pixar pictures, FINDING NEMO is really a kids' movie. And, since the movie's demographics will probably skew much lower in age, there are a couple of troubling points. For the first time, Pixar stoops to bathroom humor, using both farting and belching jokes. More troublesome is the message the film gives to young owners of pet fish. Several times, some of the fish who live in a home-sized aquarium talk about "hitching a ride on the porcelain express" as a way to escape. The fish believe that, if they are flushed down the toilet or washed down the sink, they will escape and find their freedom and happiness. One suspects that, after seeing FINDING NEMO, a fair number of youngsters may kill their pets while trying to do them a favor by flushing them to freedom.

The movie's funniest episode involves three sharks who are on the wagon. At an AA-like meeting, they vow, "Fish are our friends, not food." The lead shark starts the meeting by proclaiming, "It has been three weeks since my last fish." Fish abstinence, however, proves difficult when a trickle of blood floats through the shark's water.

FINDING NEMO is cute and clever, but it's no TOY STORY, A BUG'S LIFE or MONSTER'S, INC. With every film, Pixar seems to lose just a little bit more of its creative energy. But, it is the only studio about which I can truthfully say that I can recommend every one of its pictures.

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL memorialized the phrase, "Gort! Klaatu barada nikto." FINDING NEMO may have one such line as well since Dory repeats, about a thousand times, "P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney." It may not have the cachet of the sci-fi phrase, but it has the same you-can't-get-it-out-of-your-head quality. Speaking of quality, I hope the next Pixar film reverses course and is better than this one. It would appear that my wish will be granted. The trailer for Pixar's next offering, THE INCREDIBLES, scheduled to come out late next year, appears to have both the look and the quality of their original and best picture, TOY STORY.

FINDING NEMO runs 1:35. It is rated G and would be acceptable for all ages, although the youngest viewers may be frightened by some scary looking, albeit humorous sharks with long, sharp teeth.

Copyright 2003 Steve Rhodes

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