Pixar could make a movie about chewing gum and it would be a blockbuster success. I wonder who the brave soul was who walked into the producer’s office and said, “So… I’m thinking… talking fish…” Finding Nemo is a family classic not just because it’s “safe” for kids to watch, but because it explores the fear, disappointment, and bravery that every family member, at some point, has to face, whether they live in suburbia or under da sea. Finding Nemo is visually gorgeous, brilliantly-cast, exciting, and from about two minutes in until the very end it’s all about the feels.
The story is literally about finding a fish named Nemo. Marlin (Albert Brooks), an overprotective father and clownfish, loses his son, Nemo (Alexander Gould), to an Australian diver exploring the coral reef. This diver/dentist takes Nemo to his office in Sydney and drops the scared little fish into his wildly colourful (in décor and population) fish tank. From the instant his son is taken, Marlin himself dives into a mission to save his son, leaving his home for the dark, wide, dangerous depths of the ocean. Marlin is joined by the notoriously forgetful Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), who is simultaneously as slow as a brick and wiser than King Solomon. The pair battle sharks, jellyfish, whales, seagulls, and leagues upon leagues of ocean to find Elmo/Cheko/Bingo/Nemo.
Is this movie only about a fish finding another fish? No. The title works on many levels. On the surface, Marlin is physically searching for Nemo, but mentally he’s also discovering who his son really is – a clownfish capable of making his own decisions and tripping over his own mistakes. Finding Nemo is also a journey of self-discovery and personal growth for all of the central characters. In hindsight, losing Nemo was the best thing to ever happen to the Marlin-Nemo family and everyone associated with them. The Indian Ocean is a happier place thanks to Australian fishnappers, instinct-defying sharks, and gossiping pelicans.
While Finding Nemo is an emotional journey from scene one to credits, there’s also a healthy dose of hilarity. The fish in the tank, for one, have clearly spent too much time being fish in a tank. With the dentistry techniques they’ve meticulously studied through their glass walls, watching their master daily as he pulls teeth and performs root canals, any one of these fish could easily open their own practice. If not for the lack of appendages, discomfort on land, and possible difficulty in advertising to clients, I would have absolute faith in the success of their business. To these fish, the world is the size of a box – which has clearly contributed to their various psychological disorders – but nevertheless, they are positive mentors to Nemo, teaching him to find himself and thus adding yet another meaning to that significant title, Finding Nemo.
The film is also packed with countless quotable lines and moments, like Dory’s firm belief in her ability to speak whale (it took several years to convince my Father that it was not okay to mimic her technique in public). But, the best detail for me has to be the seagulls. Finding Nemo has the greatest representation of seagulls I have ever seen on screen. Including movies with actual living seagulls in them. This film may have been made in 2003, but I still reference the part where the seagulls fly into the sailcloth on a regular basis.
Finding Nemo is sweet, meaningful, strong (emotionally and in plot), and a growing experience for both characters and viewers. Each species is animated with a unique personality trait which fits so well with the species in question that I have ever since attached surfer-dude voices to turtles and rough-em-up Australian accents to crabs. All the laughs and all the feels make Finding Nemo a 10/10 and no surprise there’s talk of a sequel for 2016.
Note: there’s a ten second clip after the credits.