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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Pixargust: Finding Nemo (2003)

I still remember the day I saw this movie. I was around 12 and me and my family were on one of the Disney cruise lines (appropriate setting, ain't it?). The crew decided to play it on the ship the night it was released and I mentioned to my family that I wanted to see it. So after we ate dinner, it was just me and my dad that went in the ship's theater. I still remember how big this place was. I swore almost everyone on this dang boat was there that night. So the film starts and not one minute in, I think all of us were hooked (no pun intended!). When it was over, I think we were all more than satisfied with what we all saw. We laughed. We cried. I spilled juice on my good pants. Just kidding on that last part. While me and my father were enjoying Finding Nemo on our cruise, the whole world apparently loved it as much as we did. Once again getting worldwide acclaim and breaking box-office records, Finding Nemo practically became a sensation overnight. Even to this day, it’s regarded not just as one of Pixar’s best, but one of the best animated films in the history of the medium. And it’s not very hard to see why. Let’s dive right on into today’s film, Finding Nemo.

Set in the Great Barrier Reef (a real-world location), two clownfish named Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Coral (Elizabeth Perkins) are starting a new family until a barracuda shows up. Marlin gets knocked out and awakens to find that not only was Coral killed but 99% of his eggs. In some odd act of mercy, there’s still one egg left and Marlin vows to keep his only child who he names Nemo safe. This incident causes Marlin to be a little over-protective of his son and more afraid of the outside world. Years go by as Nemo (Alexander Gould) prepares for his first day of school. During a field trip, Nemo and some of his new friends venture away from the class to find a boat. Marlin catches Nemo just before swimming out to it and gets into a heated argument with him. Nemo becomes fed up with his father’s overbearing nature and swims out to actually touch the boat and swim back, but is caught by some scuba divers. Marlin immediately swims out to try and save his son, but misses the boat. He meets up with a regal blue tang named Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) who happens to see the boat catch by only to forget it in a matter of seconds thanks to her short-term memory loss. They find a sole clue to Nemo's location: a diving mask with an address on it. It turns out Dory can read and can surprisingly remember every thing about the address. So they team up and head off to Sydney where Nemo is at. Along the way they have to pass by many different obstacles and creatures such as vegetarian sharks, anglerfish in the deep, jellyfish swarms, a school of moonfish (John Ratzenberger), surfer turtles, and more. Meanwhile Nemo is placed in a dentist's aquarium and becomes acquainted with the other fish there. This gang is lead by a moorish idle named Gill (Will DaFoe) hellbent on escape. But time is of the essence as the dentist's niece, a known fish-killer, is to receive Nemo as a birthday present. Thankfully, father and son reunite and become better people for it.

The first thing that stands out about Finding Nemo, in my mind, is the animation because this is the best computer animation in history! Even almost ten years after it premiered, it's still awe-inspiring. I love how vibrantly colorful it is, I love the expressions, I love the attention to detail, I love it, I love it, I love it! The ocean looks so real that you could swim in it. And from what I hear, they got Sydney's look down really well. It's just brilliance and beauty in every single frame.

The story itself is your basic road-trip movie. It has a simple plot, but it's more centered on everything that happens along the way. Thankfully, none of these moments are dull. I still can tell you everything that happens during the trip to P. Sherman: 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney. The vegetarian sharks: humorous and rather creative. The ocean mines and ship: cool. The anglerfish: scary. The moonfish: funny. The jellyfish forest: suspenseful. The sea turtles: gnarly. The whale: kind of sad until the end of his scene. The seagulls: annoying, but funny. The fishermen: just as suspenseful as the jellyfish forest. Even Nemo's subplot with the tank gang: memorable. I do like how the movie isn't really about story, but rather moments. Funny, clever, and heartfelt alike. Of course, none of the creatures that Marlin encounters along the way really mean any harm. They're just doing what they do. As Nigel the pelican tells Nemo at one point, "Fish gotta swim, birds gotta eat." That's perhaps the film's most interesting insight: there are no true villains, just creatures that act according to their nature, and a few that transcend it.

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And yes, the film has memorable characters to go along with this wonderful fish-tale. Marlin is afraid of the outside world for a very legit reason and constantly shields Nemo from the world around him. Nemo, fed up with his father's over-protection, just wants independence. After the diver incident, the two go through some engaging developments in themselves. Marlin learns to be more adventurous, getting parenting tips from a surfer-dude turtle voiced by the film's director Andrew Stanton, while Nemo learns to be more self-reliant and that he still needs a family.

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My all-time favorite character, though, is Dory. She has to be the best character Pixar ever created! We have here a fish with short-term memory loss. To give a cartoon character a real human disorder is risky, to say the least, and I'm glad the filmmakers didn't lose the nerve to include this ingenious device, which not only generates some of the film's biggest laughs, but reinforces the character interaction that is so central to the story. But it's really her optimism is what really makes us love her.

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Finding Nemo, in my mind at least, is the perfect Pixar film. Why? Because it's unparalleled by any Pixar film before or after it. It has beautiful visuals, memorable characters, action-packed scenes, and seamless mixing of comedy and drama.The story between finding Nemo and Nemo's escape creates such anticipation for what's going to happen because we do want to see Marlin, Dory, and Nemo make it out alright even after the darkest of hours. And right from minute one, it never disappoints. It plays at our emotions, but it's never manipulative or calculating in its execution. If you haven't seen it yet (do you live under a rock or something?), Disney and Pixar are planning to re-release it later this year in 3D and it's going to look amazing! So go check it out if you haven't already. It's my personal favorite Pixar film and in my top ten animated films of all time. 

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