Monday, July 14, 2003

finding nemo: on being scared out of your fins {with a coda dedicated to some BAD disney fare}

nemo ... scared finless

Finding Nemo, the latest and greatest from Pixar for Disney Pictures is a wonderful leap forward for CGI pushing the envelope of realism. Echoing Saving Private Ryan (only barely), this is the story of Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks), a clown fish living in the Great Barrier Reef, who ventures into the scary unknowns of the ocean, in search of his only son Nemo (voiced by Alexander Gould). As always, despite tackling a new territory, the people at Pixar excel in the animation, and the goings-on are very very realistic. In fact, a bit too realistic. I spent quite a bit of my time in the dark theatre, sharing Marlin's fear of the murky depths: the sharks, the angler fish, the jellyfish, the whale. Which made me wonder: how did all the kids take it?

In addition to great animation, the film has a good layered narrative, with enough for both kids and adults. There are some great jokes and comic setups (a trio of sharks forming a Fish-Eaters Anonymous, modelled after the numerous support groups; a bale of turtles modelled after surfers, with director Andrew Stanton voicing for Crush); the "mine mine" seagulls strongly reminiscent of characters out of the Wallace and Gromit shorts; Dory (nicely done by Ellen DeGeneres), a happy-go-lucky fish suffering from short-term memory loss, who helps Marlin get to Nemo. The animators at Disney are famous for incorporating the characteristics of the voicing actor into the cartoon character, and a good example of that is the fishtank rebel leader Gill, voiced by Willem Dafoe. Every time Gill smiles, we can see Willem Dafoe smiling. Great job.

Fans of movie in-jokes will note several references to other Pixar films like Toy Story and Monsters, Inc (especially in the closing credits), as well as the sly reference to Bruce the shark from Jaws. {more behind-the-scenes}.

As if the in-jokes weren't enough, there's a special preview for the forthcoming Disney movie Brother Bear, where the Elk characters, Tuke and Rutt, suggest that, "If you see only one movie this year, see this one." Tuke then reminds Rutt that "for those who see only one movie this year, it's a little late now". Both the elks then encourage everyone who are "only going to see one movie this year" to leave the theater. As the scene fades to black, Rutt says, "I see some of them leaving." Tuke then replies that maybe they're going to "go find that Nemo guy".

The Other Side of Heaven is a prime example of pretentious, faux art, mushy crap that passes off as intelligent mainstream filmmaking (yup, a contradiction in terms). Boring, oversentimental, badly directed, and full of humourous sequences that make you groan and serious sequences of human endurance that make you laugh. "Out goes the bad air, in comes the good ..."

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