Even if you're one of the doubters of 3D conversions, "Finding Nemo" offers the kind of experience that just might change your mind. Long before the fun but underwhelming "Brave," animation giant Pixar made "Finding Nemo," a witty, innovative, multi-layered film that had as much to offer adults as the children in the audience. Now, nine years after "Finding Nemo" was first released, it's just as visually vibrant and funny as it was back then, making it one of Disney/Pixar's undoubted masterpieces, one that remains pitch-perfect in 3D.
Like many of Disney's best films, "Finding Nemo" utilizes dark themes to challenges its younger audience members, following the tradition of Disney classics like "The Lion King" and "Bambi." After tragically losing just about everything, clown fish Marlin (Albert Brooks) has only one offspring to cling to as he tries to survive the stark and often brutal deep sea. In a brilliant stroke of casting, Albert Brooks is perfect as the helplessly neurotic and anxious Marlin, a clown fish who is, ironically, about 20,000 leagues away from being funny.
In the wake of tragedy, his entire life revolves around Nemo (Alexander Gould), a plucky little fish with a bad fin and a great attitude. Nemo may not be the best swimmer in the world, but gumption and a positive outlook on life he has in spades. When Marlin finally agrees to allow him to start school, Nemo is bursting with energy to join the real world, though Marlin incessantly fears for his son's safety due to the deep scars of his past. He means well, but Marlin doesn't realize that Nemo is far too old to make him hold his fin on the way into school.
After Nemo declares his independence by putting himself in a dangerous situation, Marlin suddenly goes from concerned parent to desperate as Nemo gets scooped up and taken away by an Australian scuba diver. Though Marlin is scared to death of the open sea, he loses all concern for his own well-being as he embarks on a journey to save his only remaining progeny.
Unwilling to accept help, what Marlin really needs is a companion who can help him find his way. While chasing after Nemo without much direction, he swims smack into Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a fun-loving fish with great intentions but a crippling case of short-term memory loss. Dory may not be the type of wise traveling partner you normally see in such a movie, but her defiantly optimistically viewpoint on life is the perfect antidote to Marlin's extreme - though justified - level of pessimism.
On the other side is Nemo, who is tossed into captivity in a small tank loaded with other fish that have been swiped from their natural habitats. Though Nemo is at first terrified, he soon finds himself welcomed with open fins by his co-inhabitants, who are headed by their sage leader Gill (Willem Dafoe). Trapped in a dentist's office, it's funny to listen to their interpretation of human culture, which, in true Disney form, is shown as both well-meaning but inherently flawed. While the fish represent the best of human qualities, "Finding Nemo" subtly suggests that humans can do better if they allowed for a little more perspective.
But while this is the type of Disney-esque story setup that could have been preachy or downright boring, writer/director Andrew Stanton fills the screenplay with colorful characters and clever dialog that keep the movie fresh and exciting. Though kids will likely be enthralled by the action sequences and some of Dory's humorous antics, the screenplay is embedded with clever in-jokes that elevate "Finding Nemo" well beyond the usual family fodder. From sharks participating in meat-eaters anonymous meetings to turtles that live to catch gnarly rides on the East Australian Current, "Finding Nemo" turns into a never-ending array of gags that still work as well today as they did in 2003.
What is also striking is how well the deep sea of "Finding Nemo" translates to 3D. For many cinema lovers, the 3D experience is a distracting waste of money, but "Finding Nemo" uses 3D to enhance the scope of the deep sea visuals instead of relying on cheap gimmicks. Though the writing and the talented voice cast make "Finding Nemo" a success, it is also as richly animated as any film in the computer animation age, and it's good to see that the 3D experience hasn't stripped that away.
More than anything, "Finding Nemo" once again reminds us you don't have to dumb it down to create rewarding family entertainment that can be enjoyed by children of all ages. "Finding Nemo" not only survives 3D conversion but actually flourishes, and the sea remains as visually dazzling, challenging and open-ended as ever. Though rereleases often feel like little more than a money grab by the studios, it doesn't feel that way when it's a movie as loveable and rewarding as "Finding Nemo."
by RTT Staff Writer
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