Finding Nemo (2003)
Directed by Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich
Written by Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson, and David Reynolds

This Pixar offering begins with a horrific mass murder and, later, finds its main characters at a 12-step meeting. Scene for scene, it's more violent than Fight Club. Perhaps these aspects are more palatable when you're dealing with "cartoon fish" rather than "humanity" … still, I'm not convinced that Finding Nemo is really for kids at all.

Typical kids' films these days offer the requisite level of easy-access action/comedy for the young ones, and the equally expected level of sharp/rapid-fire commentary for the parents. Everyone wins. But mostly the parents, since at the end of the day, kids don't really fucking care whether they're sitting through "The Wiggles" or Animal Farm, as long as it's not "boring." The kids'-movie template is so predictable, that even when the film is done with a degree of savvy, I still balk at the overall pandering.

Nemo (thankfully song-free) mostly escapes this cliché by not winking – sure, there are plenty of off-the-cuff wisecracks, but they all serve the same intent: to entertain the entire audience. Hence, there's no sense of jokes being thrown in as a nudge-nudge to adults to keep paying attention … it all flows naturally.

Nemo is a deformed clownfish with an overprotective father (voiced by Albert Brooks) who tries to shelter him from any possible bad things. In an act of rebellion, Nemo ventures out into the open ocean, where he is kidnapped by human divers and taken to Sydney, Australia, for imprisonment in a dentist's office aquarium.

Panicked in grief, Brooks takes off to rescue his son, accompanied by a fish with serious ADD (Ellen DeGeneres in the best vocal performance I've ever seen in a film like this). Along the way, they meet various colorful characters, including some 12-stepping sharks, some surfer-dude sea turtles, and some faux-Aussie pelicans.

Meanwhile, Nemo captures the hearts of his aquarium-mates, including a notably depressive fish voiced by Willem Dafoe. Here, Nemo discovers his inner bravery, staging an escape from the tank that results in some hilarious chaos for the dentist and his unwitting patients.

The animation is breathtaking, though in a screensaver sort of way … sadly, "breathtaking" is the bare minimum for Pixar anymore. It certainly looked good on my BRAND-NEW HDTV SCREEN!!!! (Conspicuous consumerism thrown in to thwart my own "No Logo" pretensions.)

I ended up enjoying Nemo a thousandfold more than I expected to … my only concern, really, is that it can't be a good thing to keep feeding the kids these crack cartoons. A generation from now, babies are going to be born talking like Johnny Moschitta, and by the time they grow up, café conversation-buzz will sound like a forest full of cicadas. Shouldn't we slow them down now? I'm going to show my kids nothing but Werner Herzog.

Review by Domingo Doyle