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FINDING NEMO

2003, dir. Andrew Stanton & Lee Unkrich
96 min. Rated R.
Starring: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe.

Review by Noel Wood

First off, an apology. I haven't done anything wrong, yet, but I have a feeling I'll use profanity in the course of this review, and since I'm reviewing a childrens' movie, I feel the need to apologize in advance. Just in case. And if for some reason I don't wind up peppering the body of the review with a bunch of four letter words, let me go ahead and get this out of my system: Shit, Piss, Fuck, Cunt, Cocksucker, Motherfucker, and Tits. There. Now that I've had my way and George Carlin is likely to sue, I'll get on with the review of FINDING NEMO.

After wading through a piss-poor first quarter and having to sit through THE MATRIX: RELOADED, I was really ready for a good movie to come out. I mean, sure, there have been a few films I've liked this year (WILLARD, X2, and A MIGHTY WIND), but for the most part, it's been a stinker. That's why I was dying to see FINDING NEMO. The fact that it came out on the weekend of my birthday was kind of an extra present for me, because I knew this was going to be a good movie. Pixar Studios has yet to disappoint, and since I already have an interest in marine biology and a soft spot for Albert Brooks (when he's not doing stuff like THE IN-LAWS) I knew the planets would definitely be aligning to ensure that this was a good film.

Thankfully, I was right. In fact, and it may take some time to soak it in and all, but I think NEMO may be the best feature from Pixar to date. I love TOY STORY, but it's become a bit stale after too many viewings, is a bit too safe, and that Randy Newman soundtrack can go to hell and die. TOY STORY 2 is better than its predecessor, and A BUG'S LIFE and MONSTERS, INC were fun though slightly less memorable than the TOY STORY films. But NEMO may well top them all, at least in this reviewer's not-so-humble opinion (really, when have you ever known me to be humble?).

I was even so excited to see NEMO that I made a point to see it opening weekend, on a Saturday afternoon, knowing full well I was going to have to endure a theater full of children. And boy, did I. I mean, like, the kind of theater where the only adults who were actually there for a reason other than to bring their kids were my girlfriend and myself. But you know what? After the initial annoyance, the kids actually kind of helped make the movie. Something about the pure emotion from the intended audience, screaming at all the scary parts while laughing at the funny ones.

FINDING NEMO is a movie about exactly what the title implies. An overprotective clownfish dad loses his son to a scuba diving dentist and spends the course of the movie trying to find him. Simple enough plotline, and certainly not out of place in the traditional Disney film. The real fun is in the getting there. We follow both Marlon, the father clownfish, as well as his missing son Nemo, through their little adventures. Marlon sets out on a journey whereupon he meets a tang fish with a short memory, a bunch of sharks in a twelve step program, and a fleet of surfer turtles. What more could you ask for? Meanwhile, Nemo has found his new home in the dentist's office aquarium, where he befriends a french-speaking crustacean, a pink starfish, and an old fish that looks disturbingly similair to the actor supplying its voice, Willem Dafoe.

Of course, this ain't all kids' stuff. Oh, sure, it's a kids' movie and all, but that doesn't mean it won't entertain the older set as well. I guess that's the norm when it comes to the Pixar set, but is sure is cool to be able to get the little things that might go over the heads of the tykes. The film references JAWS, PSYCHO, and THE SHINING, to name a few, and features some pretty dark moments that even put me on the edge of my seat, and in turn scared the holy bejesus out of some of the younguns in my audience. Of course, there's also the fact that the voice actors are so well cast that you almost have to be a grownup to understand some of their nuances. Albert Brooks, who voices Marlon, is neurotic and desheveled, and you can just imagine that this clownfish might at any time run his fingers through a coif of curly hair. Ellen Degeneres is the voice of Dory, and plays the part so well, taking her normal scatterbrained delivery a step further. Willem Dafoe, Allison Janney, Vicki Lewis, Geoffrey Rush, John Ratzenberger, and Stephen Root all turn in voice jobs that will look just as at home on their resumes as any of their other work.

And of course, the movie is visually beautiful. Sure, I'm biased, because I've always had a fascination for things under the sea. But you can't deny the fact that Pixar has captured an underwater world that's absolutely breathtaking. In fact, this would have been a beautiful film had it been done in the traditional cel animation style, but the fact that it's gone in CG makes it that much more beautiful.

Now that I think about it, this movie's too good. I had a long chat with Chad the other day and kind of came to a conclusion that the good movies aren't really that fun to review. I mean, I can sit here all day and sound like fucking Ebert when it comes to a film I really enjoyed, but what fun is that? That's not the kind of operation I want to run here. It's more fun to review bad movies, because I can tear them a new asshole and use more colorful words. So, in lieu of being able to do that for this film, I'll make a bunch of fish puns and make snide remarks about the fact that the character of Nemo is really actually a retard and that this is yet another "retards prevail over the odds" story like FORREST GUMP or RAIN MAN or the upcoming film RADIO starring Cuba Gooding Jr. as a pretty convincing retard that we got a preview for before NEMO.

And now, as promised, fish puns; courtesy of the legendary Kip Addotta:

It was April the forty-first
Being a quadruple leap year
I was driving in downtown Atlantis
My barracuda was in the shop
So I was in a rented stingray
And it was overheating

So I pulled into a Shell Station
They said I'd blown a seal
I said, "Fix the damn thing
And leave my private life out of it
Okay pal?"

While they were doing that
I walked over to a place called the Oyster Bar, a real dive
But I knew the owner
He used to play for the Dolphins
I said "Hi Gil"
You have to yell, he's hard of herring

Think I had a wet dream
Cruisin' thru the Gulf Stream
Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh
Wet dream

Gil was also down on his luck
Fact is he was barely keeping his head below water
I bellied up to the sandbar
He poured me the usual

Rusty snail, hold the grunion
Shaken not stirred
With a peanut butter and jellyfish sandwich on the side
Heavy on the mako

I slipped him a fin
On porpoise
I was feeling good
I even dropped a sand dollar in the box for Jerry's squids
For the halibut

Well the place was crowded
We were packed in like sardines They were all there
to listen to the big band sounds of Tommy Dorsal
What sole

Tommy was rockin' the place with a very popular tuna
Salmon Chanted Evening
And the stage was surrounded by screaming groupers
Probably there to see the bass player

One of them was this cute little yellowtail
And she's giving me the eye
So I figured this is my chance for a little fun
You know, piece of Pisces

But she said things I just couldn't fathom
She was too deep, seemed to be under a lot of pressure
Boy, could she drink
She drank like a . . .
She drank a lot

I said "What's your sign"
She said "Aquarium"
I said "Great, let's get tanked"

Think I had a wet dream
Cruisin' thru the Gulf Stream
Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh
Wet dream

I invited her to my place for a midnight bait
I said "Come on baby, it'll only take a few minnows"
She threw me that same old line
"Not tonight, I gotta haddock"

And she wasn't kidding either
Cause in came the biggest, meanest looking haddock
I'd ever seen come down the pike
He was covered with mussels

He came over to me and said
"Listen, shrimp, don't you come trollin' around here"
What a crab
This guy was steamed
I could see the anchor in his eyes

I turned to him, I said
"A-balone, you're just being shellfish"
Well, I knew it was going to be trouble and so did Gil
'Cause he was already on the phone to the cods

The haddock hits me with a sucker punch
I catch him with a left hook
He eels over
It was a fluke but there he was
Lying on the deck, flat as a mackerel
Kelpless

I said "Forget the cods Gil
This guy's gonna need a sturgeon"
Well, the yellowtail was impressed with the way I landed her boyfriend
She came over to me, she said
"Hey, big boy, you're really a game fish
What's your name"
I said "Marlin"

Think I had a wet dream
Cruisin' thru the Gulf Stream
Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh
Wet dream

Well, from then on we had a whale of a time
I took her to dinner, I took her to dance
I bought her a bouquet of flounders
And then I went home with her
And what did I get for my trouble
A case of the clams

Think I had a wet dream
Cruisin' thru the Gulf Stream
Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh

Think I had a wet dream
Cruisin' thru the Gulf Stream
Ooh Ooh Ooh Ooh

Whew. I thought that would never end.

All Material Copyright 1998-2004 Movie Criticism for the Retarded.

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