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
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.