Andrew Stanton’s colorful and delightful film literally bursts off the screen in its 3D re-release. A massive hit for Stanton and the animation powerhouse, Finding Nemo significantly raised the bar not only for the studio but for computer animation in general. Impressive world building, Shakespearean like story and characters, the film is endlessly endearing and layered ever so subtly for the kid and adult audiences . Really it was Pixar finding their groove. It showcased hundreds if not thousands of dynamic digital elements, was the biggest jump in story and quality for the studio at the time and would further propel their meteoric success. It also made Ellen DeGeneres a household name (well that and her show). So how does a fun and family friendly film fare in its post-converted 3D release? Well Pixar proved it could work with Up and Nemo works just as well, if not better in many cases.
Finding Nemo is essentially a family drama combined with a new spin on an Abbott & Costello road movie. It’s also deep, affecting and a story about a father getting to know his son, and vice versa (even though they are apart for most of the movie). But we know that already don’t we? As Pixar religiously puts story ahead of the effects, what’s on display here is a very touching family element that proves more impacting with each viewing. Sure everyone gets emotionally invested in these characters but it’s chalked up to three factors; lovable design, top nothc voice acting and finally Thomas Newman’s brilliant score. Newman (who would work together with Stanton again on WALL-E) creates a theme that is so finely tailored and well suited to the film it’s perhaps the finest of all the Pixar films (sorry Giacchino). It really captures the spirit, energy, mysticism and fun of the film and none more so than these two tracks. But while Nemo dazzles on a visual/auditory level, the heartfelt angle, amid all the memorable and quotable humor, is just as solid.
The voice acting is great and well suited to the characters. One of Pixar’s many and distinguished talents is that they don’t get the most popular A-listers, they get a voice that’s right to the character and the story. It’s a formula that this time has again shown the world the Albert Brook’s fantastic comedic timing and again gave Ellen a much broader audience. Unless you’ve seen this tons of times (guilty!) or have a keen ear, you may not recall Stephen Root, Eric Bana and Allison Janney’s performances. Why? Well because they aren’t supposed to overshadow the aquatic personality they’re embodying. Further they’re cast as supporting characters but still contribute a lot to the story. Perfect balance in every frame; that’s Pixar’s magic and is their stock in trade.
Looking back, and better now that Pixar’s latest family-centric film has been released in theaters, we can get an idea of how the studio has grown in terms of storytelling. Quite good timing actually as we can easily compare it to this Summer’s Brave. The way we see it, Brave is more of a Disney-esqe story than something from the Pixar wheelhouse, but Brave shared a very similar tone with the the plot of Nemo where family members (a parent and child) who are at odds must overcome a significant ordeal to come to terms with each other. Nemo is a very strong story and by comparison tells the same tale better than Brave, but that said, maybe Stanton has the benefit of time on his hands. Still it’s a better film in all aspects.
But of all the hype surrounding the re-release, Finding Nemo 3D is a welcomed return to friendly familiar ground, or waters rather. To say it’s gorgeous is an understatement. It is GORGEOUS. But one element that tends to get missed on the small screen (even after multiple viewings) is Pixar’s attention to detail. Seeing this on the big screen, likened to an aquarium if you will, there’s always something moving. Not just the back ground or scenery but supporting characters. It’s easy to focus in on Nemo or Marlin but shift your glance to characters like Bubbles, Gurgle and Bloat and you’ll be amazed how much funnier and interesting the film becomes.
The leagues Marlin travels to find Nemo and all of his encounters with gargantuan aquatic life are entirely foreshadowed. But that’s the hallmarks of a great story teller, the set up and the big pay off. Here, and this is apparent after having seen this a few times, nothing should come as a surprise because every bit of dialog is a road map that drives the story forward. That’s where Stanton deserves more credit. This is a road trip film well traveled but such a fun trip to take as it is Marlin’s quest to find his son that is touching and effective every single time. It’s just a fun trek down memory lane (or E.A.C. rather) any day of the week. In fact it’s one of the movies that this reviewer has on his phone so I can enjoy the hi jinx of Marlin and Dory anytime/anywhere *steps away from review to watch a few scenes*
Sure, these days 3D is a gimmick as most films fail to deliver an truly immersive and worthwhile experience. But even though this is a post-converted effort it’s still amazing to see the depth of the ocean which is really one of, if not the best venues for a 3D film. And parting thought here, Partysaurus Rex is the best and funniest Pixar short to date. Quick cuts, lighting pace and hysterical, it’s just laugh after laugh after laugh. Even if you’ve seen Nemo too many times to count, the short is almost worth the price of admission but make no mistake, this 3D treatment is a fitting addition to such a beloved film.