I recently watched Brave, the latest Disney/Pixar feature film, and for half the film it felt like groundbreaking animated cinema, veering away from blatant pandering to children and playing like an inspired coming-of-age story told from a teenage girl’s point of view. But then the mother turns into a black bear and the whole movie derails, becoming just another Disney movie blatantly pandering to children. Not that there’s anything wrong with Disney movies, but Pixar films are held to a higher standard, thanks to Toy Story, The Incredibles, and definitely thanks to Finding Nemo.
The winner of the 2003 Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, Finding Nemo remains the benchmark by which all Pixar, hell all animated films, try to reach. This movie is beautiful all around. A flawless script, great performances by Albert Brooks and an award worthy Ellen DeGeneres, an evocative, moving score by Thomas Newman and a visual style that is breathtaking. Aside from The Incredibles, no Pixar film since Finding Nemo has been this perfect, not even Wall-E. Therefore it’s pure delight that it finally debuts on Blu-ray.
The journey of Marlin (Brooks) to track down and bring home his lost son is certainly one we’ve seen told on film before, from John Wayne (The Searchers) to Mel Gibson (Random). But Marlin is no action hero. He’s a neurotic, cautious father who must overcome his fears and stubbornness to rescue his son, Nemo. He must also learn to trust others, in particular the nut-job (DeGeneres’ Dora) who latches herself on to him. It’s Marlin’s everyman (er, fish) quality that makes him so easy to relate to. It’s as if Jack Lemmon was cast as a clown fish and he decides to go on an epic quest.
As a father, I have always felt a strong affinity for Finding Nemo. It’s one of those films that I instantly connected to the first time I saw it on DVD. The love I have for my own children is so strong that I can imagine myself traveling across the world to save them if something happened. Brooks’ performance and the textured acting by the CG artists who created Marlin are what make this film work for me. I’m sure I’m not alone, as millions of fathers (and mothers), have fallen in love with Finding Nemo (it remains one of Pixar’s highest grossing films of all time). But there is a timeless quality to the film that transcends generations.
Perhaps it’s the underwater setting, where there are no uses for modern gadgets (although that didn’t stop the atrocious Shark Tale), or perhaps it’s the decision not to uses any pop culture references for humor, but Finding Nemo feels like it could have been made not just 10 years ago, but 20 or 30. And because of this quality, it will continue to be a favorite for families for another 10 or 20 years.
Since the film was created using computer generated images, digital is the ideal way to watch Finding Nemo, and Blu-ray is the ideal digital format to watch it. The picture quality is vibrant and every image pops off the screen (literally, if you buy the 3D edition). The sound is crystal clear, allowing for every line of dialogue, every sound effect, and every note of Newman’s pristine score to wash over you and carry you to the mysterious ocean world director Andrew Stanton and his crew have dreamed up. The film is available is four different formats: A 5-disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition (2 Blu-ray + 1 3D Blu-ray + 1 Digital copy), a 3-disc Collector’s Edition (2 Blu-ray = 1 DVD), 3D Digital and High Definition digital. All formats come with bonus materials, much of it preexisting content from Finding Nemo’s original home video release on DVD.
New bonus features include “Knick Knack,”one of Pixar’s theatrical short films, a virtual Aquarium, a filmmaker’s roundtable about Finding Nemo and an alternative opening scene. This is a perfect gift for any family member this holiday season.