Title: Finding Nemo 3D
*Sigh* Another Disney Re-Release? Yeah, well, when your competition is the latest (and not screened for critics...grrr) Resident Evil movie, what have you got to lose?
Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: Four WWII naval mines out of five.
Brief Plot Synopsis: Disturbed loner and mentally unstable companion hunt down the deranged dentist who kidnapped his little boy.
Tagline: "There are 3.7 trillion fish in the ocean, they're looking for one."
Better Tagline: "Fatherhood's a bitch."
Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: Clownfish father Marlin (Albert Brooks) is a tad overprotective (his wife and most of his unborn children were killed by a barracuda, but still), but that doesn't stop son Nemo (Alexander Gould) from getting scooped up by a diver and whisked away to an aquarium in Sydney. Marlin begins a desperate quest across the ocean, accompanied by a regal tang with short term memory issues named Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), where they encounter sharks, sea turtles, jellyfish, and pelicans in their journey to free young Nemo, who's made some new friends of his own.
"Critical" Analysis: Let me start out by saying that reviewing a movie your kids have watched upwards of 50 times certainly takes some of the pressure off.
Finding Nemo is a very good movie. It doesn't quite reach the stratospheric heights of Pixar's best (The Incredibles, Toy Story, Up, WALL-E, in case you were wondering), but it still outdistances just about anything else released in the last decade. The animation is stunning, yes, but that only takes you so far without good performances and an at least marginally engaging story.
Brooks -- since his early days making short films for Saturday Night Live -- has always been more respected than loved, but you at least expected him to be decent in this. And indeed, Marlin is every bit as stubborn and exasperating as you'd imagine (and as Brooks himself is reported to be). A bigger surprise to me was how perfectly DeGeneres inhabited her role (Pixar's habit of animating their creations to resemble the voice actors, a tactic lifted by DreamWorks and others, is particularly effective here), giving weight to her relationship with Marlin.
My personal favorite, however, has to be Willem Dafoe as Gill, the Moorish idol (thanks, Wikipedia!) who leads the group of aquarium fish Nemo finds himself with. Gill is Platoon's Sgt. Elias if he'd survived Sgt. Barnes' treachery and returned to civilian life weary and hard-bitten from his experiences. And also a fish.
The only new thing to comment on is the 3D treatment. Most of the time I'd tell you the conversion if a waste of time, but there's something to the enhancement here. The original animation in Finding Nemo is impressive enough, and if you don't believe me, go watch 1989's The Little Mermaid and compare the undersea scenes to those depicted in Nemo. Then, as now, there's no comparison. The 3D just enhances the fantastic visuals, more so than with less environmentally immersive efforts like the recently re-released Beauty and the Beast.
That said, the movie drags on a bit at the end. Nemo first has to prove his mettle to himself (escaping the aquarium) before he can do it again in front of his uptight father, but at an hour and 40 minutes, you're pushing our children's notoriously abbreviated attention spans.
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Of course, no Disney-Pixar release would be complete without some elements to terrify the little ones. I'm not sure there's anything here to challenge "Night on Bald Mountain" (from Fantasia) or "Hellfire" (from the otherwise terrible Hunchback of Notre Dame), but the anglerfish and shark intervention scenes might get the littler ones squirming.
Or some of the older ones, for that matter. Jesus that shark is terrifying.
And even thougn the movie's available in, like, a hundred different formats by now, I'd really recommend checking it out in the theater. Not only is it stunning to look at, but there's something relaxing about knowing the screening you're about to attend will be filled with screaming kids is actually kind of comforting. It removes the element of surprise, though maybe only parents feel that way.