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Bill Brown

A complicated man.

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I went into this movie not expecting to like it. I was not impressed by Monsters Inc. and the trailers for this one didn’t portend anything better. I decided not to read any reviews and to just give it a chance. To my surprise, I actually liked this movie and really got into it.

Before I begin my review, I’d like to comment on the pre-movie attractions. I absolutely cannot wait to see Pixar’s next movie, The Incredibles, even though the trailer didn’t give much information—maybe I’m so excited because it didn’t give too much information. It reminds me of Mystery Men and that’s a very good thing for a movie to remind me of. Also, kudos to Pixar for including short films before their feature presentations. It costs them nothing since they’ve already produced them and it adds a lot of value. The one before Finding Nemo, Knick Knack, was quite funny. If you want to see the whole thing, you’ll have to go to the movies but there is a short preview on Pixar’s site. Since it’s so short, I won’t give away the details.

The premise of the movie is that a clown fish named Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks) is looking for his only son Nemo (voiced by Alexander Gould) who has been scooped up a diving dentist who is going to give the fish to his niece Darla, who behaves much like Sid from Toy Story except with fish. Marlin doesn’t know this, of course, but in his search for Nemo he comes across the diving dentist’s face mask with his address on the strap. This provides some direction for his quest and he enlists the aid of many sea creatures along the way. I won’t divulge the ending and tell you whether Marlin finds Nemo or not, but I will tell you that it is a Disney movie.

If the story sounds anything like Toy Story to you, then you’re not alone. Except for the more vivid dangers Marlin et al encounter along the way, the plot could have been a template. Different characters, different scenery, but same premise. That may sound like a strike against it, but Toy Story really worked and the scenery and characters are enough to probably distract most people. On the other hand, both movies feature worlds that humans know little about but are very interested in—just look at the popularity of the Disney theme parks and Sea Worlds. In the end, I did find myself noting the similarities and it did distract me a little but the movie is cute and interesting in its own right.

Where the movie really shines is in the computer-generated animation. It is simply amazing. No, stunning. No, awesome. Hmm, I can’t think of a superlative strong enough to represent the advance this movie offers. The humans look human, the scenery is complex and independent, and the characters are rich in detail. There’s a part where Marlin and Dori (his companion throughout the movie voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) are at the surface of the ocean and they look exactly like I would imagine fish coming to the surface would look, but they looked real-er. That scene cinched it for me and made me gasp. I had heard that Pixar was always making advances, but this is better than I expected. I remember being amazed at the way Sully’s hair moved in Monsters Inc.—this blows that out of the water (pun intended). At the rate they’re going, I can’t wait for Cars or Untitled Pixar Rodent Project.

It might sound negative to say that you should see this movie for the special effects, but you should. The story is a bonus and the comedy is gravy.