Chris's Film Reviews

Finding Nemo (2003)

A review by Chris Harris, who has been going to the movies for half a century, so he's seen quite a few films in his time.


Directed by: Andrew Stanton

Starring: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Willem Dafoe, Elizabeth Perkins, Barry Humphries, Geoffrey Rush and many more

First of all, I have to comment about the supporting film to Finding Nemo, the Pixar short film Knick Knack. Pixar have always been at the very top of their game in the short films field, and Knick Knack is my personal favourite, even more than Tin Toy, which won an Academy Award for best short animated film in 1988. It features the exploits of a snow-globe snowman in his attempts to visit the girl of his dreams - who lives on a "Sunny Florida" ashtray on the same shelf. It's funny, it's brilliantly executed, and it's the product of a bunch of young guys with a lot of computer power and too much time on their hands. As a result, the original girls in the short were somewhat well endowed. Well, let's be honest here - they were very well endowed. But it fitted perfectly with the somewhat mercenary nature of the snowman that he should be attracted to this kind of girl. We are, after all, talking about reality as seen from a certain, twisted, Tex Avery point of view.

So why, in the cinema release, is our girl in the ashtray completely flat-chested? This is the sort of cinematic revisionism, along the lines of "Greedo shoots first," that ends up with directors being reviled by their fans. I sincerely hope it doesn't happen again.

So - to Finding Nemo. As befits a Pixar movie, it looks beautiful. It's by far the best-looking of all the Pixar movies to date. Everything under the water looks vibrant, bright and totally believable (er, once you've got over the basic concept of talking fish, of course.) The beginning is quite dark, and might be disturbing for younger viewers, but after that we're off and running.

The cast are a joy - Ellen DeGeneres in particular shines as Dory, the fish with no short-term memory. There are all the Pixar standards in there - references to their other films (there's a Buzz Lightyear toy in the Dentist's office, and Monsters Inc.'s Mike Wazowski swims past during the closing credits), a running gag (to do with octopuses and ink), a host of great supporting characters (particularly Nigel the pelican, played by Geoffrey Rush, and Bruce the Shark, played by Barry Humphries in a slightly muted version of his Les Patterson persona). Props too, to Eric (Incredible Hulk) Bana and Bruce Spence (the Autogyro Pilot from Mad Max 2 & 3) as Bruce's backup sharks. And of course, no Pixar film could be complete without an appearance by John Ratzenberger, who this time plays an entire shoal of fish. Genius!

My only niggle with the film is that there's a certain amount of obviousness with which the film is constructed. As with the changes to Knick Knack, this isn't the Pixar I know and love. The behaviour of the supporting characters is muted, subdued, even contradictory. Particularly the sharks - they're sharks, for goodness sake! Even the Dentist's evil niece is a pale shadow of Sid from Toy Story (even down to the braces on her teeth). Some features of the plot, such as Nemo's lucky fin, smell badly of political correctness. Finally, and most seriously, there's precious little sign of the anarchic feel that the earlier films had, apart from the mayhem Nigel causes in the Dentist's surgery and the scenes with the surfer-dude turtles. All of this may be down to Disneyfication - so I hope that when Pixar strike out on their own, they'll get their edge back. Certainly, the trailer for The Incredibles looks more the sort of thing I'm expecting. Roll on next year when it comes out!

Chris's rating: Four Stars

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