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