A father fish searches the vast ocean for his lost son--and gets a little help along the way.
No matter how amazing the computer-generated animation looks, the success of any Pixar film has always been due to a great story--and Finding Nemo is one of the best. The film revolves around a clownfish named Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks) who lives in the sunny Australian Great Barrier reef with his son, Nemo (voiced by Alexander Gould). Marlin is an overprotective dad--stemming from some deep-rooted fears of the big, bad ocean--and the little guy resents him a little for it. When Nemo is fish-napped by some divers, all hell breaks loose as Marlin's paternal instincts take over, and he sets out on a quest to find his son. Along the way he meets many obstacles, as well as a bevy of characters who help his cause. Marlin's staunchest ally (whether she is actually of help or not), is Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres), a brightly colored blue fish with a short-term memory problem. Over on land, Nemo is having an adventure of his own as he's placed in an aquarium in a Sydney dentist's office with a motley crew of wacky fish reminiscent of the gang in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Lead by the scarred-but-tough Gill (voiced by Willem Dafoe), the only agenda in this tank is to escape into the ocean nearby. The key to the story, however, is the fact Marlin and Nemo never give up on each other--and somehow, someway, they will be reunited.
Nemo has quite a lineup of famous voices--almost too many--but it's still fun to pick them all out. Along with the hyperactive Brooks, the wounded Dafoe and the ditzy DeGeneres, there's Allison Janney as the sarcastic starfish Peach who is the aquarium's constant lookout 'cause she's stuck to the side; Brad Garrett as blowhard blowfish Bloat, Geoffrey Rush as the kindly yet clumsy pelican Nigel, who enjoys a brief chat with his aquarium fish friends; Aussie actor Barry Humphries (Dame Edna) as the Great White shark Bruce, a recovering fish-a-holic on a 12-step program; Pixar favorite John Ratzenberger as a collective school of moonfish who love to do impressions; and even writer/director Andrew Stanton gets in the act as the totally bitchin' turtle Crush, who just lives for a smooth ride. They are all wonderful, but DeGeneres stands out as the best of the bunch as the confused Dory, who for the life of her cannot remember who Marlin is after about 30 seconds, let alone the name of his son, Elmo, er, Nemo, but is cheerfully positive anyway. The comedienne nails the part and you can almost see those great Ellen expressions on Dory's face.
It's kind of sad how taken-for-granted computer-generated animation has become. Remember being blown away by how real everything looked (except the humans, of course) in 1995's Toy Story? Finding Nemo's animation is also the highest of quality, but you aren't necessarily wowed by it. The details in the film are almost flawless, down to the way the fish swim, the way the jellyfish sway and how the Sydney harbor looks perfect. Even the look and sound of seagulls are perfectly mimicked, especially by having the birds say only one word: ''Mine!'' Nemo ends up a very entertaining movie without the distraction of wondering how it was created. This is a true testament to the crew of Pixar animators who make it look so easy and most importantly to Stanton's meticulous work. He understands explicitly how to carve out a very simple, heartfelt, albeit hysterical tale while bringing to life a cache of wonderfully vibrant and defined characters. All you have to do is sit back and enjoy the ride.
Just when you thought they couldn't possibly do it again, especially after the mega-hit Monsters, Inc., the guys at Pixar bat it out of the park with Finding Nemo.