“Finding Nemo” is an ideal choice for a 3D re-release. Its Pacific Ocean setting is majestic, immersive, not intrusive, in evoking the vast sweep of the water and bringing us into the world of the tiny fish characters. Digital and stop motion animation give 3D technicians more options and control in adapting the original material than live action or hand-drawn animation. That is why the highlight of the recent 3D re-release of “Beauty and the Beast” was the ballroom scene, one of the earliest uses of digital technology in a hand-drawn animated feature. Here they are brilliantly used to evoke the emotional experience of the story. As Marlin, the little clownfish (Albert Brooks) looks for his young son Nemo (Alexander Gould) we feel the bleakness of the ocean’s overwhelming size and power. And when Nemo is captured, we experience the claustrophobia of the small aquarium.
It makes even more compelling what is still my all-time favorite Pixar film. In the tradition and spirit of stories from The Odyssey to “The Wizard of Oz,” it is the story of a journey that will introduce travelers to extraordinary characters and teach them a great deal about the world and even more about themselves.
Marlin is a fond but nervous and overprotective father who lives with his son in an anemone in Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef. On the first day of school, Nemo is excited, but Marlin is very fearful. When he orders his son not to swim too far away, Nemo, angry and embarrassed, impetuously swims toward the surface and is captured by a scuba-diving dentist from Sydney who wants to give Nemo to his young niece as a birthday gift.
Marlin is determined to get Nemo back. But that means he must overcome his fears. He has some help from Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a cheerful blue tang who has short-term memory loss. They search for Nemo together, despite stinging jellyfish, exploding mines, and creatures with many, many, many, teeth.
The visuals are dazzling, from the play of light on the water to the vivid variety of creatures guaranteed to make an ichthyologist out of anyone. While preserving their essential “fishy-ness,” Pixar and the voice actors have also made them each irresistibly engaging. The adventures expertly balance thrills and wit, filled with heart and wisdom. It is unusual, especially in a family film, to find a character with a disability, especially one who is neither a saint or consumed with learning important lessons from dealing with limitations. “Finding Nemo” has three characters with disabilities (Nemo has an under-developed fin, Dory has memory impairment, and a fish voiced by Willem Dafoe has scars and an injured fin). All are just accepted as part of who they are.
Even better, this is a film without a real villain. No one acts out of malice or jealousy or greed. The dentist and his young niece are clumsy and clueless, but not wicked. Even the sharks are vegetarians.
An adorable new “Toy Story” short with Rex the dinosaur challenged to get into the party spirit and turns a bubble bath into a rave is a nice bonus, though parents may want to talk to kids about not succumbing to peer pressure. The addition of 3D is a plus, and it is pure pleasure to see this spectacularly beautiful film on the big screen to appreciate fully every jewel-like color, and every detail of fin, feather, plankton, shell, current, and sunken ship. But what matters most here is the story, a an epic journey filled with adventure and discovery encompassing the grandest sweep of the ocean and the smallest longing of the heart.
Parents should know that this film includes some tense moments and peril. Some of the fish have very scary teeth and younger children may be upset when the mother and other eggs are killed by a predator (offscreen) in the beginning of the film. There is brief potty humor.
If you like this, try: your local aquarium and other Pixar classics like “Monsters, Inc.” and “A Bug’s Life”