Writer and director Andrew Stanton (John Carter), who voices Crush the surfer dude turtle, and actor and comedian Albert Brooks, whose Defending Your Life is among my favorite films, are the best things about the middling, animated father-son story Finding Nemo, a 2003 motion picture from Pixar that Disney’s releasing in 3D next week.
Brooks delivers humor and pathos at once in his pained voice as his clown fish father character looks for his lost son (Alexander Gould) after humiliating the kid on his first day at school. He defies the odds of an ocean voyage to make up for his error and is joined by a daft fish named Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), whose silly lines may appeal to young children. Nemo, the kid, meanwhile, ends up in a Sydney, Australia dental fish tank with assorted characters including scarred Gill (Willem Dafoe), one of the better characters, who teaches the kid to think his way through his problems and achieve self-reliance so he doesn’t depend on others. It’s a fine message, in a sweet and sentimental script by Stanton and others, with the neurotic, overprotective father learning what parenting means in the broadest sense, but the brightly colored Finding Nemo is as entertaining as a bubble. It’s fun for a bit and then it ends.
As with most Pixar movies, the picture is too long, the characters are too many and they are too broad, not nuanced like the classic, animated Walt Disney characters (those three Sleeping Beauty fairies come to mind). Cliches such as man as the villain, which has been done since Bambi, are just tired, though a sinister girl named Darla makes things pop toward the end. Kids watching during the screening seemed mildly involved as though affectionately finding a toy long since discarded – and Nemo is certainly not in a league with the Toy Story trilogy – but I didn’t hear a lot of childrens’ giggles and laughter. Disney is repurposing Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. too, also in 3D (scheduled for theatrical release on December 19), and that movie’s as overrated as Finding Nemo. If every dollar counts in your family, unless you can’t get enough of Nemo, I’d suggest popping in the DVD for another viewing rather than spending what you earn on parking, popcorn and 3D movie tickets.