Pixar’s Lamp – Finding Nemo (2003)

Rating: 9.5/10

Plot: A clown fish named Marlin had it all. The love of his life, Coral, a new home in the anemone and a clutch of fish eggs nearly ready to hatch. His perfect life comes to a grinding halt when a barracuda suddenly attacks. Coral, in an effort to rescue her babies, is killed and the eggs are eaten anyway. Marlin wakes up to find everything gone except for one lone egg that was damaged in the attack. He names the fish Nemo – a name chosen by Coral right before she died.

Some time passes, and Nemo has grown up enough to go to school. However, considering past events and the bad fin Nemo was left with as a result of the attack, Marlin has become an incredibly overbearing and protective father. It takes nearly everything he has just to let him go to school.

Marlin catches him wandering in open water with his classmates, trying to play a game of Chicken to see who can swim closest to a nearby boat. Marlin is outraged and demands that Nemo come home, but Nemo, sick of his father’s restrictions, decides to swim right up to the boat and touch it in defiance.

A scuba diver soon grabs Nemo and makes off with him. Marlin is too slow to keep up. He ends up in the fish tank of a dentist and learns from the other fish that the dentist plans on giving Nemo to his niece, Darla – an obnoxious girl who killed her last fish by shaking the bag too much.

Meanwhile, Marlin and the forgetful Dory set off on an adventure to find Nemo while Nemo and the fish from the tank try to break him out before Darla gets her mitts on him.

Breakdown: The best animated movies are ones where adults and children alike can enjoy it at the same level. The best animated movies are ones in which both adults and children alike walk away having learned something. The best animated movies are ones like this.

Finding Nemo is one of my favorite movies. It’s incredibly well-written, has fantastic characters, is very funny as well as being emotionally impacting, and it never talks down to its audience. Some movies you enjoy as a kid and you reconsider watching them as an adult, but worry that you’ll end up focusing on all the goofy or stupid parts and realize that the movie wasn’t as good as when you first watched it.

This is definitely not one of those movies. In fact, I’d say this is one of those rare movies where you gain an entirely new appreciation for it when you become an adult. It makes sense, because Finding Nemo seems intentionally split to relate to both adults and kids by separating the movie between what’s happening with Marlin and what’s happening with Nemo.

In Marlin’s story, he’s hanging around with Dory, who has short-term memory loss. She’s trying to help him find Nemo, but her condition leaves her to being an annoyance to him sometimes, and, like Nemo, he starts to get overbearing with her too because he doesn’t trust that she can do any of the things she claims she can do since she has such a terrible memory.

Marlin’s journey is all about realizing that he can’t protect Nemo at all times, and, honestly, he shouldn’t, because that’s bad for Nemo’s growth as a person (fish?). Dory said it best.

“Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him….because nothing would ever happen to him.”

A parent protecting their child is only natural. A parent becoming overprotective after what Marlin went through is completely understandable. Here, he has to realize that his fears are getting in the way of not only Nemo’s life, but also his happiness. If you protect him from everything that is perceived as possibly bad, you’re also shielding him from any good experience he could possibly get. And sometimes you need to experience bad things, even pain, to have a truly fulfilling life.

I may not be a parent, but I definitely understand the negative effects of having a sheltered childhood and overprotective parents.

While we’re on the topic of Dory, she is just as funny as I remember her, even if she did get a tiny bit annoying in spots. And I am so glad they didn’t try to force in some sort of weird romance between her and Marlin.

Nemo’s side of the story is not only about becoming independent, but also overcoming his own fears and limitations. Simultaneously, it’s about him understanding his father’s stance. While Nemo is more than willing to try and prove his father wrong in what he can and cannot do, he still holds hesitation rooted in his bad fin. We never see it hindering him much, but the fact that he has it makes him feel like he sometimes can’t do things.

One of the most important scenes with Nemo was the failed escape attempt. After gaining some self-confidence in his abilities by the gritty Gill, Nemo is quickly recruited to be a part of Gill’s newest escape plan – which involves jamming the filter system for the tank and swimming out of the narrow tube.

Everything goes according to plan until the pebble that was being used to jam the system suddenly slips, sucking Nemo down into the rotor. The other fish manage to save him, but Nemo is very shaken by what happened and Gill gives up all escape plans out of shame.

This scene is especially important because it teaches Nemo that there was a reason behind Marlin’s concerns. The world is dangerous and you do have to be cautious within it. You could argue that the incident with the boat did the same thing, but this is a little different.

Gill gave him confidence in his abilities, whereas the boat incident was fueled by defiance for Marlin. He wasn’t concerned with his abilities or the danger at hand because he was too focused on defying his father, like most kids do. It was an immature thing to do.

In this case, Nemo was focused on getting them all out of there, escaping Darla and being reunited with his dad. He still had reservations, but he was willing to give it a try. This is more mature and is a sign of actual bravery.

In the end, he manages the entire operation by himself after finding out that his father was braving terrible danger, including sharks, to find him. His father facing his own personal fears to find him gave Nemo a more healthy dose of confidence and clarity that allowed him to pull off this feat.

You could say Marlin and Gill are pretty good opposites – especially as father figures. Marlin is an embodiment of the dangers of living too cautiously while the scars on Gill’s face from a failed escape attempt and the fact that he nearly got Nemo killed doing the same make him an embodiment of what happens when you’re overly headstrong. In the end, they all find a good balance.

This film is also a rarity in that there’s not a single side character that I disliked. While some segments could be classified as filler, I was always more than entertained enough to not care. The sharks, the synchronized school of fish, the seagulls and especially Crush and Squirt were all very funny and great to watch. Some of the fish in the tank were a little weak on the comedy, such as Bubbles (His shtick is he likes bubbles…) Gurgle (germaphobe) and Bloat (a kinda gross pufferfish voiced by Brad Garret.)

If I had to say anything negative, some of the jokes are a bit too juvenile and there was nary a single human character who wasn’t despicable. The only two main human characters are the dentist, who is annoying and gross, and Darla, who is an obnoxious little brat. I get that kids do indeed do this, but I about wanted to smack her upside the head when she started violently shaking the bag Nemo was in while yelling “FISHY! WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WHY ARE YOU SLEEPING!?” The kid watching all of the commotion from a little window, thinking the dentist is torturing her, is pretty funny, though.

Also, there are way too many death fakeouts. Nemo has a grand total of five death fakeouts. Dory and Marlin have one together, and Dory kinda has one on her own (It’s more like a ‘severe injury’ fakeout)

Finding Nemo has aged wonderfully in the art and animation department. 15 years have passed, and I am still in awe of the attention to detail and the beautifully fluid motions of the fish. This movie does an outstanding job at really making you feel like you’re in a vast ocean, and I give them double props for this because underwater animation is insanely difficult.

Pixar is also noticeably better at making human character designs at this point.

The music is good and fitting, but a little forgettable.

The voice acting is fantastic. I loved Willem Dafoe as Gill and Alexander Gould did a great job as Nemo.

All in all, I still love Finding Nemo as much, if not more, as when I was a kid. It’s a timeless (outside of one mention of 2003) film that is a fantastic ride for adults and children alike. It’s funny, emotional, full of great action and just a joy to watch. You’re truly missing out if you don’t see it at least once.

Recommended Audience: There’s quite a bit of death. Either characters dying or talking about death. This movie probably has the biggest Pixar body count if we count every one of Marlin’s kids. It’s all very well handled, however. There are no dead bodies….well, one, and the language is very tame. It’s not like that scene in The Little Mermaid where Sebastian watches fish being slaughtered. Other than that, nothing really. They avert saying a swear once, but that’s the worst of it. 6+