Pixar, the computer animation arm of Disney, has had a tendency of sparingly releasing movies for the big screen. This is evident from the fact that since its first big budget venture into the world of pixel animation in 1995, it has managed to release only 4 features viz, "Toy Story" and its nearly superior sequel "Toy Story 2", followed by "A Bug's life" and finally "Monsters Inc." This summer's "Finding Nemo" is only the fifth major release from this now powerhouse studio that has been operating for over 8 years. Considering its streak of perfection though, it is safe to say that the wait has always been worth the results.
Since its May release during the summer, Nemo has managed to become both a critical and commercial success. It now sits comfortably in the top 10 ranking of the highest grossing US movies of all time, and has the added distinction of being the highest grossing animated movie of all time as well. What makes it such an utter delight and in turn, so popular is its good natured moral story telling, eye-popping animation, presence of characters we actually care about and most importantly, a truly humorous and fast moving script with realistic levels of emotional content. A true family film, Nemo is one of the few movies that rightly balances sentiment with wit.
The titular character, Nemo, a clown fish, lives with his over protective and worrisome father Marlin (superbly voiced by Albert Brooks) in the coral reefs of the ocean. Marlin's cautious demeanour is an acquired trait, which comes from losing his wife and a spawn of unborn eggs, early in the film. All except for unborn Nemo that is. Nemo grows up to have one short fin, what he calls his lucky fin. However his luck doesn't hold him safe for too long.
On his first day of school he is unknowingly caught by a diver separating him from his father. This sets into motion a wild, ocean spanning hunt by Marlin that is punctuated by marvelous views of the watery depths that these fish live in. In doesn't help that on his quest he befriends and ultimately enlists the help of Dory (a show stealing Ellen DeGeneres), and although she is wiser than Marlin, (after all, she can read English) she is inflicted with short term memory loss. The one clue to Nemo's whereabouts, who finds himself in a dentist's aquarium in Sydney, is a diver's mask with an address label.
In the fish tank, Nemo gains the acceptance and, in time, the friendship of Gill (Willem Dafoe), a weary, sharp, general like fish. Gill carries with him a battle hardened attribute and a poignant dignity to his cause, echoing the characteristics of Dafoe's character from Platoon. Marlin's rescues operation is juxtaposed with the aquarium fishes planning their own means to emancipation.
The best aspect of Finding Nemo is the flawless animation. Scenes showcasing the ocean without any aquatic life are extremely life like, nearly blurring the line between animation and reality. The very ocean seems to grow and turn more complex and infinite as the situation on screen finds the characters exploring more of it. We are made to see the point of view of fishes both within the ocean as well as when in human contact in the aquarium. Humor is derived from both characters and unfamiliar situations and the human analogy is sharp.
Along the trip, we run into an assortment of quirky characters, including a shark reforming his fish eating ways, a sea of jelly fish, a sunken submarine surrounded by mines and sea turtles on a voyage across the sea. This segment is particularly amusing showcasing the abilities of these turtles to swim in sea currents in what appears as warp speed. Their good natured allure comes from their surfer like ability to speak, using the words 'dude' and 'whoa' with characteristic aplomb.
Eventually, in true Disney fashion, it all culminates with a happy ending (no surprises there!), but with the added benefit of a moral lesson and not before some quick turns are taken to make us think otherwise. In the end, this turns out be one fish out of water experience worth having. - Faizan Rashid