A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 159 – Finding Nemo

Finding Nemo – August 6th, 2010

Um. Oops. We ran out of shark movies. Poor planning on our part. We’d meant to go grab Jaws II and Deep Blue Sea some time this week and never got around to it. So, this evening, finding we had no more cheesy shark movies at hand, we poked through our list in hopes of finding something that would do. We have so damn many movies still, there was bound to be something. And there was! I hadn’t seen this before, but I knew from the ads there was at least one scene with sharks. And it turns out one of the sharks is named Bruce, after the lumbering mechanical shark in Jaws, so we’ve sort of come full circle, in a way. So in it went!

It’s a mostly cute movie that I’m extremely late in seeing. If you’ve read some of my other reviews you might be able to guess why. At this point I think it’s not even so much overhype about specific movies as it is about Pixar in general. I know they make brilliant, funny, touching, clever, beautiful movies. I’m well aware. I saw Toy Story and A Bug’s Life when they came out on video and I enjoyed them. I’m not in any way suggesting that they don’t deserve heaps of praise for making the movies they make. But there comes a point where I don’t need to hear more praise. Saying Pixar makes good movies is like saying Martha Stewart makes good centerpieces. It’s a given. Proselytizing just makes me weary, and that’s what it feels like. And good as Pixar is, its movies aren’t turning water into wine or parting the red sea, okay?

Sorry. I have my grumpy pants on today (polyester/wool blend, perfect for August in New England). Sure, this movie didn’t perform miracles, but it is sweet. Clownfish Marlin, a widower whose wife was killed by a barracuda, is a single father trying to raise his disabled son, Nemo, in what he believes to be a deadly environment: The ocean. Chafing against Marlin’s overprotectiveness, Nemo rushes out into open water, away from the relative safety of the reef they live in. He’s promptly scooped up by a diver and swept off to an aquarium in a dentist’s office. Paranoid and panicked, Marlin then engages in a desperate search for his son. This is sort of like Spring Break Shark Attack except it’s all humans, and it’s from the father’s point of view and it’s Pixar and there are no blood fountains. Anyhow. Moving on.

What makes this a nice little change of pace is that it is largely from Marlin’s point of view. Yes, we get to see Nemo gaining friends and confidence in the aquarium. He and the other aquarium residents have to figure out a way to save him from the dentist’s niece, who has a habit of killing her fish through overenthusiasm and whom I suspect is a cousin to Toy Story’s Sid. But the vast majority of the movie, the heart of it, is Marlin’s journey from the reef to Sydney. He meets up with Dory, a regal tang who’s a bit like the dude from Memento but without the polaroids or revenge obsession. Together they meet up with three sharks who definitely do not want to eat them, what I think was a hatchetfish or something similar, a bunch of stinging jellyfish, some kindly surfer bum sea turtles, and finally a huge whale. And along the way Marlin’s story gets spread throughout the ocean, becoming epic in scale. A big fish tale, if you will.

Of course Marlin and Nemo are reunited. Pixar does like to tug at the heartstrings, but when it comes to a parent separated from his or her child? Yeah, they’re getting back together by the end. It’s as sure a thing as there only being one parent (a common trope in both Pixar films and traditional folk and fairy tales). There’s some dramatic tension after the fact, and then the usual “Look how great everything turned out!” ending. It was fun and all, but the most surprising part of it was that Marlin was the main focus. And even there, he’s got Dory to play the innocent childlike role.

The whole thrust of the movie is about growing up and letting go, and it’s pretty much a sledgehammer about that in places, in one instance flat out saying “It’s time to let go.” But I’ll forgive that for the most part. It’s not so egregious as to ruin the movie or anything, it’s just a little more blunt an instrument than I’d prefer. Then again, Marlin’s fears about the dangers of the ocean are never shown to be without cause. It’s not as if we’re expected to think he’s worried over nothing. There are several instances where Marlin and Dory are in true peril and only luck and desperation save them. I actually like this. It hearkens back to traditional folktales where the world is a dangerous place. And while there is the whole theme of Nemo finding out what he’s capable of and learning to face some dangers head on, his story happens in an aquarium tank. It’s danger with training wheels. So, not a subtle theme overall, but crafted well.

The other big pluses this movie has going for it are things that I think are par for the course for Pixar. The animation is absolutely gorgeous. The characters’ movements are so very expressive that even the ones who don’t speak have personalities. The water effects are lovely and being as fond of the ocean as I am, I really did enjoy seeing all the scenery in general. And then there’s the voice acting, which was perfectly in tune with the animation. It’s nice to hear some big name actors playing fish and birds and whatnot, but it’s also nice to hear some Pixar regulars get to do what they do best. I was also pleased to hear Bill Hunter as the dentist, and am amused that I can now identify him by voice alone. All in all, it was just what I expected: A fun, sweet, pretty movie.

August 6, 2010 - Posted by | daily reviews | , , ,

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