By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — If you want to use the 3-D-ization of Finding Nemo as an excuse to see it again on the big screen, or to introduce youngsters who’ve never seen it to its animated charms, feel free.
Whatever it takes.
Because there’s nothing fishy about this fishiest of fantasies. Even nearly a decade later, with all the technological advancement in the interim, it remains a monumental achievement as well as a delightful and resonant entertainment.
The visual splendor of this anthropomorphic animated attraction is perhaps enhanced a tad by the 3-D process. But it’s hardly necessary: this film is glorious without it.
It seems strange now to recall that for animators, underwater used to be overwhelming. The ocean floor was at one time seen as beyond animators’ artistic grasp.
Then came the 2003 release of Finding Nemo, with its staggering ingenuity, and the heretofore limitation became water under the bridge.
Finding Nemo baited the hook with not only a heartwarming father-son story but a visually splendiferous underwater setting.
Directed by Andrew Stanton, who has had his fin in his share of animated classics (Wall-E, Toy Story 1 through 3, A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc.), Finding Nemo manages to blend comedy, drama, suspense, action, adventure, and spectacle into a remarkably fluid entertainment.
Albert Brooks gives voice to the main character, a nervous clown fish named Marlin who’s overprotective of his only son, Nemo, after a tragedy changes family life for them in the Great Barrier Reef.
When an Australian diver captures Nemo, who ends up in a dentist’s-office aquarium in Sydney, the timid clown fish/father takes off after his beloved offspring in a desperate race against time, his own timidity, troubled waters, and astronomical odds.
Along the way, Marlin and Nemo encounter their share of colorful characters -– some helpful, some threatening, some swimming, some flying, all witty -– with voices provided by an ensemble cast that includes Ellen DeGeneres, absolutely witty and winning in an extended role as Dory, a regal blue tang fish with short-term memory loss, as well as Willem Dafoe, Brad Garrett, Allison Janney, and Geoffrey Rush.
And as the central journey proceeds swimmingly towards reunion, giving the adventure a strong emotional spine, several themes bob to the surface, chief among them the difficulty parents have letting go of their kids.
What’s perhaps most amazing about the film –- even though you catch yourself taking it for granted for stretches of time early on -– is the surprisingly convincing, richly detailed oceanic environment.
This remains a marvel of computer-animated animation, one that raised the bar by capturing the look, feel, sense, and flow of underwater life to an arresting and even astonishing degree.
And from a narrative standpoint, what this film’s predecessors did for toys and bugs and monsters, this dip in the sea did for fish.
So we’ll submerge 3½ stars out of 4 for a splashy tale that, nearly a decade ago, set the CGI high-water mark for visual design.
Finding Finding Nemo should be a fish-out-of-water tonic for just two groups of viewers: those who have never seen it and those who have.