Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Finding Nemo

I feel like the first several Pixar movies were good but not quite exceptional like their more recent output, and Nemo sort of marks that transition to true brilliance. It's not a favorite, but it's really quite good, capturing the right combination of humor, excitement, and heart. I guess they really figured things out when they started making things sad. The movie doesn't linger on it, but the opening scene where Marlin loses his wife and most of his children is probably harder than anything else the studio had done to that point, and it works very well to inform the character for the rest of the film. Marlin searching all over the ocean for his son isn't a terribly different story from say, the toys trying to rescue Woody after he gets stolen, but the knowledge of that earlier tragedy gives everything a greater weight and urgency. You want him to find Nemo because you know it will destroy him if he doesn't. One of the best family relationships the company has done.

It doesn't take over the whole movie though, as there's plenty of opportunity for the expected clever action sequences and windfall of entertaining celebrity voices. Sequences like Dory reading the address by the light of an anglerfish and escaping from the seagulls in the beak of a pelican are a lot of fun, and while I think having famous people do voices because they're famous can be damaging in pointless, everyone here seems really well cast. Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres make a good leading pair, it's surprising hearing a very young Shane from Weeds as the titular character, Willem Dafoe is entertaining as the gruff leader of a group of aquarium fish including Brad Garrett and Allison Janney, and you'll probably hear a few more recognizable voices at some point. It's a nice looking film if not as eye-popping as what they've done in the last few years, and it tells its story and wraps it up at a very nice pace. Not my favorite animated movie, but a pretty good benchmark for what family films should aim for.

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