By Roger Thomas for the SNAP
Friday, September 21, 2012 —
In my review of “Brave” earlier this year, I stated that “Finding Nemo” is the best Pixar film ever. The other day I told a friend that it was the best animated film I have ever seen. And I stand by that. It is as perfect as cinema gets.
Recently I took my children to see “Nemo in 3-D”. I am pretty sure I have already discussed my lack of enthusiasm for 3-D. I agree it has made great strides over the last few years, but I can take it or leave it. It does not change my opinion about a film. It seems more impressive with some features over others. But at the end of the day, I do not care to have a 3-D television in my home, and if they decided not to release another film in 3-D (which Hollywood is not about to make that decision), I would be content with that proposal. With that said, “Finding Nemo in 3-D” looks great, but go for the film, not the 3-D.
I have watched the “Finding Nemo” many times on DVD. I have thought about it and quoted it over and over again. My favorite line comes in a conversation between Marlin and Dory. Marlin says, “I promised I’d never let anything happen to him.” Dory replies, “Hmm. That’s a funny thing to promise.” Marlin asks, “What?” And then Dory answers with those wise words for parents everywhere, “Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.” (She means Nemo, but she has a problem with memory.) Great dialogue in a great film.
Watching it again reminded me of some of the great strengths of “Nemo”. First, it is the rare Disney film that actually tells us what happened to the mother. How many Disney characters, especially Princesses, have only a dad with little or no explanation?
Second, I was also struck again by the courage of this plot. This is a film about child abduction. Make no mistake it is fun, colorful, often hilarious, brilliantly written and directed, but when you peel away the fact that this is a cartoon about fish, this is ultimately about a parent who will do anything to find and save his child. The film resonates with truth because it is driven by the love of a parent.
Third, as I watched the film again, I considered the fact that the pacing of “Nemo” is perfect. I read an article years ago which said the success of “Gone With the Wind” had much to do with the fact that the film moves fast, it never lingers too long on any one scene. That is important for a movie that clocks in at a little less than four hours. But I would argue that “Nemo”, at 100 minutes, keeps moving forward at a perfect pace as well. Marlin and his new companion Dory go from one adventure to the next, never facing any peril for too long.
Fourth, this film works because of the structure. While Marlin is doing everything he can to find his lost child, the story is split with the other action happening in an aquarium as young “Nemo” strives to escape from his kidnapper with the help of his new friends. Both stories offer surprises and twists and neither ever disappoints. There are no dull moments here.
Finally, “Nemo” works because the film has this huge heart. I have cried at many animated features through the years but “Toy Story 3” and “Finding Nemo” have received the most tears. That moment when Nemo says, “Dad, I can do this.” and Marlin replies, “You’re right. I know you can.” Wow.
Whether you go to the theater and watch the 3-D, pull it off the shelf, or rent it from Netflix, going under the sea with Marlin, Dory, Nemo and the gang again or for the first time is a voyage worth taking.
One final note: Disney and Pixar have announced plans for “Finding Nemo 2” to be released in 2016. We can all hope that it will be even close to the achievement of the first film.