Finding Nemo (2003)

G   |    |  Animation, Adventure, Comedy

Finding Nemo (2003) Poster

After his son is captured in the Great Barrier Reef and taken to Sydney, a timid clownfish sets out on a journey to bring him home.

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  • Finding Nemo (2003)
  • Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres in Finding Nemo (2003)
  • Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres in Finding Nemo (2003)
  • Finding Nemo (2003)
  • Finding Nemo (2003)
  • Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres in Finding Nemo (2003)

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2 June 2003 | saska-3
| Thoroughly enjoyable, but the sum does not equal the parts.
Fresh off a viewing in a packed theater of kids and parents, my initial impression of "Finding Nemo" was that I had a great time throughout, but don't necessarily remember why. The film is similar to the "Toy Story" pacing, in that we follow two different protagonists in their attempt to return to one another. In brief summary, Marlin the overprotective father clownfish must overcome his own fear of open ocean to try and find his only son, Nemo, who has been captured by a diver and transplanted to an ocean-view dentist's office fish tank.

The visual impact of "Finding Nemo" is unparalleled in animated film. At its best, it compares to the experience of seeing the sweeping landscapes of "Fellowship of the Ring" for the first time - not until we own the DVD and my son has watched it a dozen times will I really have an opportunity to see the details crammed into the lush backgrounds of the coral reefs. It was noticeable, however, that frequent close-ups in open water were used to reduce the amount of time spent rendering those brilliant backgrounds. In comparison to Pixar films like "A Bug's Life", where every moment of the film includes rich textures and detailed background perspective, this seemed jarring at times. It should be noted that this is true to what the ocean looks like - if you're not diving in a coral reef, you are probably seeing a lot of floating detritus and gray water - but it's worth mentioning that the fish tank environment of Nemo and his fellow captives is, at times, more interesting than the open ocean.

Pixar took chances (or else saved money) with many of the voice actors used in the film. It was refreshing not to instantly "know" a voice was familiar in the case of many of the characters - all of them did a serviceable job, although the well-known actors also turned in some of the best performances. Ellen DeGeneres had no fear as the voice of Dory, gleefully pulling off vocal pratfalls that would have been hampered by someone else's sense of dignity. I can think of only one other actress - Julia Louis-Dreyfuss - who I think would have been able to do Dory well. Kudos to Ellen. Willem Dafoe is also noticeably brilliant as Gill, and it's a bonus that the animated character he plays is gorgeously realized. John Ratzenberger does a hysterical turn as the school of fish we all saw in the previews.

I am surprised at the number of characters whose voices are not credited in this film. I wanted to know, among others, who voiced Mr. Ray the schoolteacher and the trio of parents with whom Marlin banters.

I laughed out loud frequently and heartily throughout the film, but at the end, I looked back and wondered how those moments of amusement added to the story. Many people have commented that they loved the 12-step program for sharks ("Fish are our friends, not food!") but in the final analysis, it added very little to the arc and seemed out of character (I realize I'm stating the obvious). The frequently-dropped comedic digressions were the weak point in this picture, especially compared to "A Bug's Life", where the funniest moments of the film are all critical to the progress of the protagonist and impact the end of the story.

My 2 and a half year old son was frequently frightened to the point of crying out and grabbing on to me during the movie, and he followed the primary issues easily. At a particular moment in the film when things seemed hopeless, I heard dozens of young children beginning to cry. If your child is very affected by scary or dramatic moments in movies, you may want to talk with them about "pretend" versus "real" and prepare them for the eventuality that everything will turn out all right well before you go into the theater. His final analysis was that "the fish movie was good!" - so take it under advisement if you have kids of similar age.

I give "Finding Nemo" an 8 out of 10 on the strength of its visual lushness, its enjoyable voice work, and its moments of perfectly timed humor. It does not, in my opinion, match the strength as a *film* of earlier Pixar offerings, but even in its innocuous state, it's higher quality than most of the family films I've seen in the past 3 years.

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Did You Know?


Peach, played by Allison Janney (more famous for playing C.J. Cregg on The West Wing) announces that the dentist is about to do a root canal, bringing to mind the hilarious West Wing episode "Celestial Navigation". There are a couple of allusions (the song "Beyond the Sea" and the line "That's my boy.") to Albert Brooks in My First Mister


Marlin: Wow.
Coral: Mmm.
Marlin: Wow.
Coral: Mm-hmm.
Marlin: Wow.
Coral: Yes, Marlin. I... No, I see it. It's beautiful.
Marlin: So, Coral, when you said you wanted an ocean view, you didn't think you were going to get the whole ocean, did you? Huh?
Marlin: Oh, yeah. A fish can breathe out here. Did your man ...


When Mr. Ray sings his "Let's Name the Species" song, he isn't actually naming species. Porifera, Coelenterata, Ctenophora, Bryozoa, Arthropoda, Echinodermata, and Chordata are all phyla. Hydrozoa, Scyphozoa, and Anthozoa are classes in the phylum Cnidaria (Coelenterata), and Gastropoda is a class in the phylum Mollusca. The order of classification is: kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species. Phyla and classes are definitely not the same as species, although it is revealed, in the DVD, that Mr. Ray isn't an actual scientist, more that he just picks things up. In that case, it could very well be that he mistook the one for the other, not knowing that he was passing on incorrect information.

Crazy Credits

During the end credits, Mike Wazowski (the one-eyed character from Monsters, Inc. (2001)) can be seen swimming across the screen while wearing scuba-diving equipment.

Alternate Versions

In the 3D re-release the old Disney logo is replaced with the new Disney logo and the Pixar logo that was used in the 3D version of Up (2009). These changes were also made in the 3D Blu-ray release (The regular Pixar logo is used in the 2012 DVD & 2D Blu-ray version).


Written by
Thomas Newman


Plot Summary

Synopsis (WARNING: Spoilers)


Animation | Adventure | Comedy | Family

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