"Kill the motor, dude. Let us see what Squirt does flying solo."
Nine years ago, Pixar's fourth film took the world by storm, quickly becoming one of the highest grossing films of all time, second only to The Lion King among animated films. Finding Nemo has taken on an almost mythical status as one of the ultimate family films, a gold standard against which almost all others are judged. It's fitting, then, that Disney selected it as one of the films to get a theatrical re-release, something which they used to do all the time before the advent of home video, albeit in a post-converted 3D version. So is it worth your time and, more importantly, your money to revisit?
In the interest of full disclosure, it's worth me saying that the first time I saw Finding Nemo in the summer of 2003, I was underwhelmed by it. As a matter of fact, until Cars came along, I felt it was Pixar's weakest effort. But I was a different person back then. I wasn't a father, which isn't necessarily a prerequisite for enjoying the film, but it certainly helps to connect the film to certain audience members on a much more visceral level.
Many of the flaws that I found the film to be plagued with back then, still get on my nerves. First of all, the film is one hundred minutes long, and it seems that almost all of that running time is devoted to characters in peril. It's a seemingly endless series of pitfalls and obstacles which are placed in the way of all three of the main characters. In other words, it's more like an action movie than an animated family film. There are no fewer than three climaxes in the film, which continues to be a big hindrance to my enjoyment of it, but maybe that's just me.
My other major gripe is the character of Marlin, in general, isn't all that sympathetic. He's overbearing and controlling, and while he certainly learns a lesson in how dangerous that can be for a parent, we still spend the bulk of the film's running time with him before he learns this lesson. I know, I know, how else can a character grow unless he overcomes obstacles to succeed in the end, but it doesn't make him any easier to like.
In the long run, though, these are not deal breaking complaints to completely ruin my enjoyment of the film. First and foremost, it's breathtakingly gorgeous. Pixar had been at the forefront of pioneering computer animation techniques, but this film put them in a class by themselves. If anything, the 3D conversion actually hinders a bit of the film's beauty. It's a common complaint that the picture quality of a 3D film is noticeably darker than 2D, and this is a perfect example of that phenomenon. The dimension and depth of field for the effects is cool, and works well, but I'm actually looking forward more to seeing this on blu-ray when it's released in December, as I think the picture quality will be even better.
There's not much I can add to the conversation that hasn't already been said, at least in the realm of criticism. The voice acting is fantastic, particularly from Ellen DeGeneres as Dory. My oldest daughter ate up her every line reading, and was in hysterics at most everything she said. She has a wonderful naivete in her voice that serves the character well and makes her endlessly sympathetic. Albert Brooks is also great, as always, as Nemo's over protective dad Marlin, and the supporting cast is full of great voice actors like Geoffrey Rush, Willem Dafoe, Brad Garrett & Stephen Root.
As a father, I can tell you that I now appreciate Finding Nemo in the way that director Andrew Stanton likely wanted it to be appreciated. I can connect with it in a way that I couldn't before I had children, and since I was in my mid-20s when it was first released, I wasn't young enough to enjoy the film from a child's perspective.
I talk about this a lot when I review family films, but it helps tremendously to have children and see the films with them. It allows you to live vicariously through them, and while it sometimes leads to an artificial inflation and appreciation of some films that may not deserve it, it also gives you a sense of how the films play to their intended audience. If you have children and want them to see this on a big screen (as I did), then by all means, run, don't walk to see this before it's gone. But if you love the film, and want to see it as the filmmakers intended, wait for the blu-ray, as it will likely be an amazing disc.
GO Rating: 3/5
[Photos via Box Office Mojo]