I have a confession to make: For all my love of all things Pixar (except Cars and Brave), I had never seen Finding Nemo until its 3D rerelease this weekend. I’m not entirely sure how I managed to miss this movie for nearly a decade, but it’s a great little family film. Everything we love about Pixar is present in this movie.
I suppose the big question anyone would want answered before shelling out money to see Finding Nemo 3D is whether the use of 3D is enough to justify a return trip to the cinema to see a movie that’s been out on DVD for nearly a decade. Having never seen the original release of Finding Nemo, I’m not sure if 3D does add anything to the film. However, unlike the rerelease of a live action film—such as Titanic where the somewhat dated CGI and the traditional 2D camera techniques used to shoot the film were somewhat at odds with the 3D presentation—animated films look particularly good when post-converted into 3D. That’s because these movies were created on a computer, not shot on film, so the post conversion process is smoother.
If I knew nothing about the flick and you had told me that Finding Nemo was a brand new release always intended to be seen in 3D format, I would believe you. Though a decade old, the computer generated imagery of the film looks amazing on the big screen, and the 3D is unobtrusive and expertly used. Finding Nemo holds up against any contemporary releases. The 3D alone probably isn’t a good justification for seeing the movie, but the opportunity to see the film on the big screen is.
As for the film itself, most movie goers have probably already seen Finding Nemo in some format or another and have had the opportunity to make up their minds about the picture’s quality. My understanding is that Finding Nemo is already generally regarded as an animated classic on par with the Disney movies of the early ‘90s. And having finally seen the film myself, I wouldn’t disagree with that assessment.
The story is straightforward enough: Nemo, an anthropomorphized clownfish raised by a single father (brilliantly voiced by Albert Brooks), is captured by a scuba diver whilst swimming in the open sea. Nemo is transported to an aquarium in Sydney, Australia while his father braves the entire ocean to reunite with his offspring. Since this is a family movie, they of course reunite and live happily ever after.
This seems like a pretty standard set up for a Disney talking animal picture, which is probably why I avoided the film like the plague when it was originally released. Animation studios share a history of cynically crapping out terrible talking animal cartoons because four year old children can always be relied upon to drag their parents to a movie featuring a talking dog or a singing crab.
Finding Nemo, written and directed by the great Andrew Stanton, (who would go on to direct WALL-E, and, unfortunately, John Carter) finds a way to subvert expectations. Most surprising, perhaps, is that Finding Nemo isn’t really about the precocious child finding his place in the world, but about the overprotective learning to let go of his baby. A good 75% of the movie is about the parent’s emotional development, making Finding Nemo a film with a message that’s primarily geared to the parents being dragged into the theaters to see it. That’s impressive.
And since this is vintage Pixar, the 3D animation is stylized and gorgeous, the vocal talent is eclectic and well suited to the material, and the storytelling is top notch. Unlike DreamWorks pre-How to Train Your Dragon efforts, this isn’t another tired talking animal cartoon espousing the same trite message: “Be yourself and you’ll achieve all your dreams.” There’s some substance to this one.
Finding Nemo lacks the fast pace of The Incredibles, the inventiveness of WALL-E, and the emotional thrust Toy Story 3, but all of the touchstones that have elevated Pixar to its current position of reverence are present here. And you know what? Finding Nemo is still better than any other animated film released this year. So if you haven’t seen it, see it. If you’ve already seen it, use the 3D as an excuse to see it on the big screen again. There are far worse ways to spend your money.