Finding Nemo


You can’t keep a good fish down

The future's looking so wet in movies, we may soon be wearing goggles over our stereoscopic specs.

Given that Hollywood swims in cycles, the chances of James Cameron’s oceanic Avatar sequels and David Fincher’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea launching a school of aqua-movies shouldn’t be discounted.

Will Marvel’s Sub-Mariner surface soon? Don’t bet against it. All of which makes Pixar’s underwater return look timely, not cynical.

Doubters will argue that Finding Nemo 3D and its upcoming sequel, Finding Dory, are damage-limitation jobs for Pixar and co-director Andrew Stanton after the former’s Cars 2 and Brave and the latter’s John Carter.

But Finding Nemo didn’t just set a high standard for Pixar’s perfectly balanced hybrids of wondrous worlds, all-ages storytelling, judicious emotional ripples, cine-wise gags and boundarystretching animation.

The film might also be what Waterworld, released just over a decade before Nemo, was not: the benchmark for watery adventures, period. First reason? The watery world itself.

Water is a bugger to film, in live action or animation. But Nemo raises the bar the minute those ululating anemone fronds part like curtains on its rapturously realised universe.

The flutter of fins, the lysergic colours, the fishes’ slow-drift propulsion, a whale looming into view from deep-screen... this is frame-dissolving filmmaking, hypnotic and immersive.

Adding on-screen risks to the risks of animating water, Pixar fills the sea with more teeth than the dentist’s office to which young clownfish Nemo (Alexander Gould) gets exiled after he’s been separated from neurotic dad Marlin (Albert Brooks).

Long before Up’s weepie opening and Toy Story 3’s apocalyptic overtones, Nemo’s sentiment-dodging shock prologue and adult movie nods (The Terminator, The Shining) gave the sea’s threats their due.

Wit, wisdom and warm characterisation provide heartfelt counter-currents to the kiddie-sized horror. Ellen DeGeneres’ sparky delivery keeps Dory’s Memento-ish memory issues lively; sight gags come so fast they demand revisits; and Nemo and Marlin’s parallel realisations that a life without risk is a life half-lived isn’t too toxic as movie messages go.

Heeding that wisdom with its own watery gamble, Pixar banked its biggest hit until Spanish Buzz Lightyear. Small wonder, then, the company’s now going back to its subterranean world.

If nothing else, the scene in which Marlin’s story is ferried between fishes suggests the sea harbours endless yields of narrative possibilities. And if Finding Dory delivers on even a fraction of that potential, you can bet on this: Nemo’s school will just keep swimming.

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