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Finding Nemo (G)
Walt Disney Pictures
Official Site
Director: Andrew Stanton
Producer: John Lasseter
Written by: Andrew Stanton
Cast: Albert Brooks, Alexander Gould, Ellen DeGeneres, Eric Bana, Erica Beck, Willem Dafoe, Barry Humphries, Allison Janney, Richard Kind, Vicki Lewis, Austin Pendleton, John Ratzenberger, Stephen Root, Geoffrey Rush, Andrew Stanton

Rating: out of 5

Finding Nemo may do to the fishing industry what Bambi did to image of recreational hunting. Itís a film that may well end up being ruinous for the likes of dining at Red Lobster. Thatís really about the only thing that can be said with absolute certainty about this latest Disney Studios-Pixar animation film: Fish are our friends! Otherwise, itís a rather indistinct affair. Unless of course, you dig animation of all kinds; then itís a visually spectacular must-see kind of a film. But if a moving plot and witty dialogue is more your thing, Finding Nemo tends to come across as a second-rate cartoon.

Set in the Great Barrier Reef near Australia, the overly protective Marlin the clownfish (Brooks) keeps a close watch on his sole progeny, Nemo (Gould). But how you gonna keep íem in the anemones once theyíve seen the bottom of the ocean floor? This is the dilemma Marlin faces as Nemo relentlessly pesters to be enrolled in grade school. He finally agrees to send the young fish off for an education but we donít have to wait around too long for something bad to happen. On his first day out, disaster strikes quickly. Young Nemo is abducted by a scuba-diving dentist who scoops him into a tiny fish net and takes him back to the 20-gallon tank at the office. Driven to find his lost son, Finding Nemo becomes a road trip movie across the floors of the ocean.

Along the way Marlin meets an assortment of characters. Included in the bunch is the amnesiac Dory (DeGeneres), who becomes Marlinís major sidekick; Crush the sea turtle (Stanton) who speaks in a Southern California vernacular; a dangerous cluster of deadly jellyfish; and best of all Bruce the great white shark (Humphries, a.k.a. Dame Edna), who is not the nemesis of deep he appears to be, and who provides the most unexpected and genuinely funny moment of the film. But other than this one respite, Marlinís journey is mostly tiresome, not to mention predictable. This is, after all, a Disney film. Does anyone doubt for a second father and son wonít have an eventual happy reunion?

Meanwhile, the better parts of the film happen not in the great big blue, but in the fish tank where Nemo is held in captivity. Helping to plot his escape and ensure a happy ending are an additional assortment of fish, including the gruff-sounding Gill (Dafoe), a wonderful homage by way of a fish to 1950sí detective noir characters. Itís these clever but all too infrequent scenes featuring Gill, Nemo, and the other frustrated fish which all but steal the show from Marlinís plodding deep water adventures.

To its credit, the Pixar team provides much more than breathtaking animation and kiddie fare plot contrivances. Like Toy Story and Monsters, Inc., also written by Stanton, the film is sprinkled with complicated jokes that will go over most kidsí heads. But this is the hallmark of a good juvenile film, one that appeals not only to a younger set with gaping holes in their summer schedules, but also to accompanying parents who are too nervous to merely drop the kids off at the front of the theater. Thus, Finding Nemo will likely make animation lovers happy while at the same time serving up reasonably entertaining fare. And itís guaranteed to make you squirm the next time fish is served for dinner.

óNancy Semin


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