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Generating over a billion of dollars in worldwide profits, Finding Nemo is no krill in the world of animation. Pixar’s fishy movie not only went on to become the undisputed titanic of animation, but it also generated unanimous praise from critics and audiences alike. Its not everyday a movie like this swims along...right okay, that’s enough ocean puns for now…read on for the full review.

Movie
The phrase, ‘Films may have influence on people’ has been a subject of debate probably since cinema was born over one hundred years ago. As to whether it does or does not is something that will not be solved or proved overnight. However, certain things can be brought to light to identify a cause that they can have a mind bending compulsion to them. For example; the film Omen was proven to reduce the amount of birth names ‘Damien’ by a significant percentage during the 1970’s; Star Wars encouraged children’s fantasies to swap from swords and sorcery to science fiction, effectively swapping swords for light sabres; and now the illustrious new motion picture from Pixar, Finding Nemo has reportedly caused a surge in sales for aquatic fish tanks and clown fish alike. Do films have an influence of people? Whether it’s the way we live our lives or the things we buy, do or say? My opinionated answer to that is a resounding, yes.

Finding Nemo: Collector's Edition
The film opens on a relatively darker note than people were perhaps expecting, something quite uncommon for a family movie such as this. The opening is so well staged and executed that even the few animated film detractors couldn’t help but be captivated by the simple strings of humanity that resonate in this unworldly fantasy. It is, after all, a father-son relationship tale. Just as Monsters, Inc proved Pixar can crunch out stories that we can all relate to, so do the writers here. In the case of Monsters’ it was the idea that at some stage in out childhood we all fear of monsters under the bed. With Nemo they show us just how strongly our parents care for us and the lengths they go to make us happy. It may sound overly sentimental but the production team, writers included, have wielded a truly remarkable tale that works on many different levels.

Not being a parent myself I know only of this family bond for younglings due to a younger brother I have. I have always been there, almost as a fatherly figure in times that his own father was not there for him. For example; when his father is working or when my brother himself is upset or feels rebellious. Or those other times he comes to me for support or advice. Writer Andrew Stanton captures this emotive panache through his own experiences with his son. He reveals on the bonus disc of this DVD that his fatherly relationship brought about the very core of this film, and it certainly shows.

In this powerful opening sequence we see a homely Marlin and his wife Coral move into their new residence, right on the verge of the beautiful Coral Reef expanse. Marlin, perfectly voiced by the quirky Albert Brooks seems content that their new home is the right place to raise their young. Quite the contrary for Coral, however, as she has reservations and doesn’t seem too happy with their move. Apparently she was happy just the way things used to be. This whole scene, moody though it is with the gentle rumble of the ocean and the startling beauty of the Reef in the backdrop, is underscored exquisitely by Thomas Newman. Newman’s music, quaint and appeasing, gives the picture the emotional breadth needed with string work and heavy percussion in the movies’ more dramatic or action moments. He demonstrates this ability to stone hop from gentle, with the ‘egg on-look’ scene to the haunting with the ‘attack’ scene that follows with the vicious looking Barracuda. The same can be said when we see Marlin with the slightly damaged ‘Nemo Egg’ clutched in his fins and then cut to the title sequence where some truly lavish piano cues fall in. For what it’s worth I am glad the producers opted to change the composer to reflect the tone of this entire picture. While Randy Newman is certainly a good composer, I feel Thomas was more suited in this instance. It worked for me and I am sure the same can be said for Pixar fans the world over.

Portions of Finding Nemo instantly made me reminisce about Disney’s 1940 picture, Pinocchio. Certain story themes are undoubtedly similar, as are some of the sequences from Nemo; the whale scene anyone? But I suppose that was to be expected of this film and it has, after all, the very right to exploit its underwater concept to the fullest of the writers’ creative abilities.

So what about the animation you ask? Well, I think most of you will know this already if you were among the millions that went to see it. Nemo went onto become the biggest animated movie of all time finally out-grossing Disney’s The Lion King by a considerable margin. Success also seems to come in two’s with DVD sales that reportedly outsold the phenomenally successful The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers discs. The animation is what you would expect from Pixar; smooth, colourful and character animation that owns the world. The fish move just as fish should move, the ocean ripples and roars just as you would expect an ocean to and let’s not forget the ambient atmosphere they’ve created here. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the best looking of all the Pixar movies. Every frame, scene and character bursts with a life and energy that I have never before seen in an animated picture. Everything you see explodes with faux realism and a magic that only Pixar could create, it’s simply breathtaking. I would challenge any detractor of animation to not fall in love with this spectacle.

Finding Nemo: Collector's Edition
Picking up the thread regarding the story in this movie, the film follows the traditional tried and tested ‘three point story structure’, having a clear and definite beginning, middle and end. The story is relatively simple and goes something like this; after a soon-to-be-father loses his lady friend and all but one egg, Marlin raises his son (the titular Nemo) all by himself only do lose him to a group of divers one day at school. Panic stricken, Marlin goes on a quest accompanied by Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) to save his son. As you would expect from an action packed and intelligent story, Marlin and Dory’s travels are not as simple as they had planned. They encounter deadly jellyfish, ‘Dude-Talking’ turtles, whales, birds and other sea creatures along the way. Nemo’s adventure however, is far different. Being trapped in a dentist’s office with the fear of being taken away by a menacing young girl, Nemo’s struggle for freedom begins. It’s all very lavish and fun, but it never lets up on the sentimentalities and truly heart-warming moments of courage, love and friendship. The whole affair remains facetious enough so that it entertains its younger viewers as well as the grownups.

Every Pixar film comes jam-packed with jokes and Nemo is no different in this regard. Just like its predecessors, they’re not all for the kids. In fact, there’s something here for everyone. This approach only goes to strengthen Nemo’s appeal to audiences of all ages and cultures, something Pixar seem very good at doing. Some may notice the absence of the outtakes at the end of the movie. Some argued against this, while some were tiring of the joke. I personally feel that this film didn’t need any laughing gags at the end; it was too emotional of a moment to induce laughter at that stage. A well chose decision by Stanton.

To wring this review out and to summarise this movie in as many words, it’s a classics hands down. It makes most of the worthless trash that fills complexes these days look even worse with its top notch writing and breathtaking production. Finding Nemo wasn’t just one of the top ten movies of 2003, it was one of the top ten movies of this millennium so far. Pixar deserved their Oscar for Best Animated Feature and I hope that it isn’t too long before they oust themselves all over again.

Finding Nemo: Collector's Edition
Video
Animation movies always make good reference quality DVDs. The way their colourful backdrops and near artistic paintings blossom into every frame make them the perfect medium to test your television set. Now enter Pixar movies and other CGI related production houses. Static backgrounds or often lifeless characters that can plague traditionally animated movies are no longer an issue with full-on computer generated imagery. With Nemo undoubtedly being the most complex in the genre for its colours and environment, Disney/Pixar had the difficult task of maintaining this unmatched visual quality. Suffice to say they succeeded with style! Presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen the print is flawless, just as you would expect a digitally sourced movie to be. For full screen punters the region 2 set has omitted the 1.33:1 version, but if you’re a true home cinema buff then there’s no question that the widescreen print is far superior. Images are sharp, highly detailed and with no trace of a flaw on the image anywhere, so this really is the ultimate reference disc to beat. I can’t imagine Pixar or any other CGI house for that matter coming out with a better concept that could in any way oust this standard-setting animation.

Audio
Once again Pixar pull out all the stops here, offering a solid Dolby Digital 5.1 EX and DTS 5.1 mix toped with crème de la crème THX support. Also included here is the now infamous THX Optimizer, a nice little touch and a welcome addition to the powerhouse of sound on offer. Both the DD and DTS options are more or less as good as each other, with clear and pristine sound through the centre channel and just enough LFE action to satisfy the bass addict in all of us. As a side note Newman’s score bursts effortlessly throughout every channel with a ripe force to be reckoned with. Overall, the DTS track is slightly stronger, but not so much that the Region 1 owners need complain about.

Extras
The packaging for this disc is immaculate; the slip over case with the glossy, reflective effect is a nice touch. As is the welcome Amaray case this double disc set comes packaged in.

Funnily enough the one feature I was most eager to test was the series of Virtual Aquarium’s that both discs one and two showcase. Sure enough their appeal is limited and once you’ve tired them all out and absorbed in them for a while…well, there is only so long you can stare at animated water, let’s put it that way. That said however, the Aquariums are pleasantly diverting and a good way to tell your friends you have a fish tank built into your TV screen. The menu screens (which are the Virtual Aquarium’s) are very nicely rendered and all accompanied by soft sound effects for added realism.

Finding Nemo: Collector's Edition
Pixar have gone with a quality over quantity effort here, and the bonus material on offer is all in perfect sync with the theme of the movie. The biggie is of course the visual commentary; something that gives tremendous insight into Pixar, the making of the film and all the subtle changes made along the way. This commentary, like almost every feature on the disc, is told with tongue in cheek frivolity that should please all. The whole team really put their feet up and often give the impression that they sit around all day playing games and reading comic books. Of course is the complete opposite of these guys, who are usually up to their necks in work. This particular visual gag, as seen in Studio Tour had me in hysterics as did the Jean-Michel Cousteau themed Documentary Exploring the Reef. As hilarious as this documentary is, it also happens to be very informative and cast light on real issues with the ocean. It does so in ways that both children and adults alike can understand with simplicity, that is to say, its mature imagery of dead landscapes and decaying Coral beds.

Pixar have landed us a nice little preview of their forthcoming Brad Bird movie, The Incredibles as well as a chance to see the comical Knick Knack short produced by Pixar some 15 years back. There’s also the usual slew of theatrical trailers and promotional material including the Robbie Williams video Beyond the Sea and others that run along a similar tone. There’s also much for the kids to appreciate too, with Mr. Ray’s Encyclopedia, Fisharades and plenty of others for them to enjoy. At the end of the day this disc is no Monsters, Inc for sheer quantity, but the material on display is more than worth the price of admission. Some of the features will even keep you coming back for repeated viewings. As it says on the back cover, ‘With something for everyone’, a quote that’s as true to the word as it comes.

Overall
Pixar have churned out another classic, and somehow along the road they have managed to outdo themselves completely. The DVD is solidly presented with excellent menus and packaging as a whole. But the real reason to own this disc is for the movie which is worth the RRP on its own merit. The features are slick and juicy enough to whet your appetite for more, and at the end of the day this is a Pixar release. ‘Nuff said.


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