Film review: Finding Nemo 3D

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The animated nautical journey Finding Nemo 3D finds new dimension in a return to the big screen. (Disney) The animated nautical journey Finding Nemo 3D finds new dimension in a return to the big screen. (Disney)

The 3D re-release of Pixar’s 2003 undersea saga may or may not be a bid from director Andrew Stanton to make back some of the cash his John Carter lost at the box office. Or it may just be de rigueur for controlling partner and distributor Disney to slap a 3D stamp on its most profitable properties (see also Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King—and, for that matter, the first two Toy Story films) in an era of smaller screens stealing audience attention.

In any event, and most importantly, Finding Nemo still holds up. (True, it’s less than a decade old, but being hailed as classic always implies a kind of antiquation.) And it’s still just the tale of an overprotective single-dad clownfish (voiced by Albert Brooks) on a quest to rescue his curious young son (Alexander Gould) from a dentist’s office aquarium.

Set in the vast and beautifully animated Great Barrier Reef, this proves once again to be an affecting adventure. It maintains that pleasant Pixar sense of having risen to a self-imposed challenge—not just the establishment of an oceanic world, but also that of the population therein. Toys and cuddlier animals are easier to anthropomorphize than fish, to which cuteness and pathos adhere less readily, but of course this is also the studio that gave us A Bug’s Life. We shouldn’t be surprised to discover (or rediscover) some engaging personalities among even the scaliest of Finding Nemo’s swimmers, which include stoner turtles, twelve-stepper sharks, and Ellen DeGeneres as Brooks’ goofy, forgetful helpmate.

Plus, as befits a proper odyssey, it isn’t afraid to venture into dark depths. To have gone a while without seeing it is perhaps to forget how Finding Nemo starts with an episode of terrible, albeit natural violence (mercifully offscreen), and how nimbly its makers braid character investment with a reasonably kid-friendly explanation of the food chain.

The visual complexity is less rich than in more recent Pixar projects, but the point is that you don’t think about that because it’s plenty rich as is, and because unless you’re some heartless brute who just can’t get into cartoon fish stories about family separation, it’s all too easy to get carried off by this narrative current. What remains most impressive is how Stanton and co-director Lee Unkrich, working with a carefully rendered story by Stanton, Bob Peterson, and David Reynolds, commanded their movie without over-controlling it. This seems useful for any film, but particularly for one which happens also to be a fable about possessive parenting.

Agreeably preceded by the short Partysaurus Rex, which segues characters from the Toy Story series into an aquatic context of sorts, Finding Nemo 3D fits the bill for that increasingly rare cinematic treat: a big room full of oohing, ahing, laughing, sniffling kids. Of all ages. It didn’t need a 3D retrofit to deserve another big-screen run. Then again, it didn’t need a sequel either, but reportedly and happily one is on the way.

Finding Nemo 3D  (G, 100 minutes) Carmike Cinema 6

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