Reviewed by: Harvey S. Karten Grade: B- Walt Disney Films Directed by: Andrew Stanton Written by: Andrew Stanton Cast: Voices of Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe, Geoffrey Rush, Brad Garrett, Barry Humphries Screened at: Loews Kips Bay, NYC, 6/1/03
When I was last in Cancun, I noted that the college students who lined the town wall-to-wall were not particularly interested in snorkling, despite the preponderance of tropical fish in certain areas of the booming Mexican tourist town. Human contacts were all-important to them to the extent that they wanted nothing to do with activities that did not involve close connections with the opposite sex. Even those who are avid snorklers, however, might never go back to that activity after seeing the latest Pixar Animation Studios adventure, Disney's "Finding Nemo," which is written and directed by Pixar veteran Andrew Stanton, co-written by Bob Peterson and David Rynolds with music by Thomas Newman. Why so? On the big screen, the fish and their salty environs take on larger-than-life proportions with even greater color than exist in reality, and what's more they speak English. While much of their dialogue seems awkwardly improvised and insipid, there's no faulting the stunning visual effects which remind us of previous adventures with the technology, John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton's "A Bug's Life, Mr. Lassiter's "Toy Story," and Peter Docter's "Monsters, Inc." While all three previous Pixar offerings gave the adults dragged by their kids to the cinema much to cheer with some sardonic humor that must have gone over the head of any kid lacking Mozart's genius, there is surprisingly little dialogue this time around that could match up to the wit and cleverness of the others.
Then again, the young ones do not go to "Finding Nemo" to hear Elizabethan orratory or the brief operatic sounds that introduced the Sydney Opera House toward the conclusion, but to marvel at the myriad of colors and the plot lines, and this movie does give impetus to their imagination given the fear that little kids have of being lost or abandoned by those on whom they depend.
Using the lead voices of Albert Brooks in the role of Marlin the clownfish, Alexander Gould's as Marlin's titular son, and Ellen DeGeneres as Dory, the female consultant, "Finding Nemo" takes place downunder in the nabe of the Great Barrier Reef not far from Sydney Harbor. When a sudden swoosh of 'cudas gobble up eggs and fish so swiftly that the kids in the audience could scarcely see them, Nemo is left with only his dad, Marlin, to guide him. Marlin, played according to neurotic type by Albert Brooks, is so overprotective of his son that he hesitates even to send him to his first day of school. When the rebellious Nemo who shows the vulnerability that lies beneath his bravado swims past a safe zone, he's scooped up and lands in the fish tank of a dentist, told specifically to watch out for the tooth doctor's orthodontically-challenged little niece.
"Finding Nemo" is a coming-of-age story centering on an adolescent fish who tests the waters (so to speak) and discovers that he'd best chill with his neurotic dad lest he wind up once again in the tiny quarters of a fish tank with others who'd like nothing better than to escape a fate worse than root canal. The picture is loaded with adventures, some redundant, wherein sea creatures demonstrate their specialties and eccentricities. Jacques, for example, is the movie's bottom- feeder, cleaning the gunk eliminated by his pals while another, who thinks the reflection in the fish tank is her identical twin sister, could be cast for the third episode or Dumb and Dumber.
While "Finding Nemo" is a miracle of visual splendor, opening up the summer season like other spectacular but dialogue- challenged fare like "X2" and "The Matrix Reloaded," the redundancies and less-than-inspiring talk threaten to sink the expedition.
Rated G. 101 minutes. Copyright 2003 by Harvey Karten at Harveycritic@cs.com
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