Computer-animated fish story from the Pixar people (Andrew Stanton, director), by way of Disney, about a neurotically fretful clown fish by the name of Marlin ("Clown fish are no funnier than any other fish"), whose only surviving offspring, a normally inquisitive fingerling named Nemo, gets captured by a scuba diver and imprisoned in an aquarium in a Sydney dentist's office. At the very outset, the tossed-off justification (or "character motivation") for the parent's anxieties will not make you forget the death of Bambi's mother or Simba's father, but it will, unluckily, make you think of those. Nemo's abduction, on the other hand, is acceptably harrowing, as is the treacherous passage, later, through a minefield of jellyfish. And, although a trifle didactic, the eternal child-rearing issues — how much protectiveness? how much permissiveness? — admit no easy answer. (Apart, anyway, from the all-conquering, all-correcting power of fatherlove.) Visually, the cloudy, shimmery, undulating strangeness of the subaqueous universe seems uniquely well suited to the capabilities and limitations of computer animation, and yet at the same time the shapes and colors of the fish are a little too akin to your standard bathtub Rubber Ducky. (Ideal, one would suppose, for the ancillary "merchandise" on the toy-store shelves.) But rather than squeak like Rubber Duckies, they — the two main ones — speak with the overfamiliar and overshadowing voices of Albert Brooks and, as his volunteer helper in his search for his son, Ellen DeGeneres. (The latter does, however, earn a laugh in her efforts to communicate with whales, running her plain old English through their warped-tape-recorder cadence and modulation.) In the end, the film succumbs to the common blockbuster ailment of piling climax upon climax and not knowing when or how to quit. (2003) — Duncan Shepherd
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