A review of “Finding Nemo” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ****

Rating: G as in a great treat for all

Run Time: 1 hour, 41 minutes  

 

A conspicuously poignant opener kicks off Pixar’s latest, and quite possibly greatest, animated spectacular.

Against the lush backdrop of the majestically undulating sea life of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, a brightly-hued clown fish named Marlin (voice of Albert Brooks) spawns a batch of fish eggs with his lady love, only to have the family dream shattered by a ravenous shark.  Deeply saddened by his loss, Marlin cares for his only remaining child under a perpetual cloud of parental anxiety. But the vivacious Nemo (voice of Alexander Gould), is hard to suppress, for snappy adventure always seems to lie just over the next reef.

Against his better judgment, the overly protective Marlin finally caves in to the idea of school for his little vertebrate.  Drunk with freedom, Nemo takes to showing off in front of his peers, swimming off beyond the dreaded drop-off and landing smack in the net of a recreational diver who’s collecting exotic sea life for his office aquarium.

Thus begins the unwavering search for Nemo, an emotional odyssey pitting real and imagined fears against the powerful love for an only child.  Along the way, Marlin befriends Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a goofy Regal Blue Tang suffering from short-term memory loss.  As frustrating as she is helpful, Dory nonetheless plays a key role in the search and rescue of tiny Nemo.

Watery humor washes over all.  Celeb voices flawlessly match their gilled muses, including a gruff Willem Dafoe who lords over the fraternal bonds of tankhood as hardened veteran Gill, a wise and crusty pelican voiced by Geoffrey Rush, and director/screenwriter Andrew Stanton as the ancient turtle surfing dude Crush. Personal best in show goes to Allison Janney as Peach, the perky pink starfish who keeps an eye peeled on breaking developments outside the tank.

“Nemo” is smooth sailing throughout, never missing a beat in every component of its production.  The humor is relentless and subtly amusing, the animation is gloriously hued, and the thrill of the chase is furiously intact.  In an unexpected stroke of brilliance, Pixar has interlaced its energetic storyline with the moody strains of a classic Thomas Newman score, lending an element of darkness that ingeniously penetrates the perpetual submarine light.