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FINDING NEMO

by

debbie lynn elias

Having already set the standard by which all animated films are now judged and compared, Pixar outdoes itself with the summer's newest, freshest and most delightful film, "Finding Nemo." Written by Disney and Pixar veterans, Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson and David Reynolds, "Finding Nemo" is the tale of the Nemo, a fearless and overly inquisitive little clown fish who lives in an anemone in the warm coastal waters off Australia's Great Barrier Reef with his father Marlin.

As fearless and curious as is Nemo, Marlin is an overly-obsessive worry-wart, afraid of losing Nemo like he did Nemo's mother and other unborn children (seems they were dinner for some hungry barracudas). As Nemo heads off for his first day of school, Marlin gives the standard parental first- day-of-school lecture -- stay with the class, don't go swimming off alone, avoid the drop-off into the deep water (kids - read up on the Continental Shelf), pay attention, don't dawdle and come home right after school. But, Nemo seems to "forget" his father's advice and instruction and wanders off, gets netted by scuba divers and eventually finds himself inside the salt-water aquarium of a dentist in Sydney, Australia. But never fear, our brave little fish is not alone as he shares the tank with a cleaner shrimp named Jacques, a blowfish named Bloat and a Moorish Idol named Gill who thinks he knows how to "escape" from the aquarium.

With his son in danger, the timid Marlin finds strength and courage as he heads off through the Australia Current to find and rescue little Nemo. But talk about adventure! Along the way, Marlin meets up with a googly-eyed Blue Tang named Dory who offers to help Marlin, together with a myriad of other undersea creatures. And hey, you ever wonder why fish don't get lost down under (except for Nemo, that is, and that's probably because he can't read yet since it was his first day of school)? Just check out one of the most exquisite sequences in the film as schools of silver fish morph into road signs! Thanks to a lovable whale, some chatter-box pelicans, a hip-hop Sea Turtle named Crush and even a shark named Bruce (naturally involved in a 12-step rehabilitation with a mantra of "Fish are our friends, not food"), Marlin and Dory make their way to the Sydney Harbor inching ever closer to finding Nemo.

Led by director/writer Andrew Stanton and production designer Ralph Eggleston (who last year brought us the much heralded animated short, "For the Birds"), "Finding Nemo" has something for everyone - from witty, and at times satiric, scripting to entertain the adults in the crowd, to the action and adventure guaranteed to hold a child's interest. But mesmerizing all is the exquisite blending of color and motion, creating this enchanting tropical undersea world filled with bright colors and interesting fish and flowers, all of which just wash over you like a gentle tide, making you just beg for more. The effect is so magical you'll find yourself not wanting to even blink lest you miss even one iota of the beauty. But, our Pixar magicians also hold onto some reality, as they create a murkiness in the deep sea akin to real life which emphasize the unseen dangers of which Nemo was warned, where things just sneak up on you unseen due to the water's depth. Making this more than just a "cartoon," Stanton continues with the same type of direction he exhibited in "A Bug's Life", intercutting between the two adventures - that of Marlin and that of Nemo - which adds to the character development and growth of each.

Also contributing heavily to character development and storyline are the animators. In tackling one of the toughest areas of animation - underwater adventure - the Pixar crew spent hours viewing aquariums with their contained undersea plant and animal life, not to mention being tutored by an ichthyologist at the Aquarium of the Pacific, all in an effort to capture the exact look and feel of the undersea world. Faced with the problem of not only creating underwater movement and accurate visuals (much like that seen by a scuba diver), but giving personalities to our fishy little friends without the benefit of hands or feet to aid with reaction and emotion, the animators took their newfound knowledge and incorporated same into each character, emphasizing things such as eyes or the specific type of fin movements of a particular creature. The result is absolutely masterful.

And talk about character development! In animation, voicing is essential to the character and here we have an extremely talented and perfectly cast, cast of characters. Although Alexander Gould is delightful as Nemo, it is Albert Brooks who brings true life to the character of Marlin. With his patented neurotic tendencies (check out "The In-Laws", "Mother" or any other Brooks film), you can't help but envision Brooks himself swimming around fretting and fearful of even his own shadow. And like we have seen him do in "The In-Laws," Brooks's character here with Marlin, ultimately grows and gains some much needed self-respect and courage. Ellen DeGeneres as the scattered brained Blue Tang Dory is even more comic than the clown fish. (And Ellen, I don't believe for a minute you had a tiny pony in the room with you to help you do voices here!) Not to be overlooked are Brad Garrett as Bloat and Willem Dafoe as Gill. If there was ever a film where the actors had tendencies and traits characteristic of the characters they are voicing, this is it.

A family film that is truly for the whole family - from grandpop to grandson. "Finding Nemo" is a precious gem in the Pixar and Disney vaults. Exquisitely stunning, enchanting and magical from start to finish.

Marlin: Albert Brooks
Dory: Ellen DeGeneres
Nemo: Alexander Gould
Gill: Willem Dafoe
Pelican: Geoffrey Rush
Bloat: Brad Garrett
Bruce: Barry Humphries

Walt Disney presents a Pixar production written and directed by Andrew Stanton. Running time: 101 minutes. Rated G.

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