Why ‘Finding Nemo’ is My Favourite

Vote For Nemo in the Ultimate Summer Movie Showdown.

I used to be embarrassed to say that Finding Nemo was my favourite movie. I remember seeing it in theatres on June 20th 2003. It was Father’s Day week and my mom had suggested me and my father go for some much needed male bonding time. I was nine years old and me and my dad didn’t do a whole lot together other than me tagging along on shopping trips. After an inordinate amount of planning (as opposed to now when I ask once then buy tickets) we finally get in the car on our way to the Cineplex. We had discussed whether we should see another father and son movie released that day: Ang Lee’s HULK. My dad was the one pushing hard for Nemo after he had heard all the critics rave about it. The Internet wasn’t organized like it is today so for any film to review this well you had to either hear about it from friends or be intrigued enough by the commercials. I wasn’t. Looking at the records it pulled in it was the rare film to move back up the charts to #1 in its third week and was still packing theatres a month later. Today that performance is equivalent to a movie with the impact of the Joker and the staying power of Black Panther.

Ever the Virgo, I still wanted to weigh my options, no way it was that good. I was riding high on comic book films that year having already seen Daredevil (still like it to this day especially The Director’s Cut) and X2: X-Men United in theatres so I wanted another Marvel movie. On the Pixar side my family and I had seen Toy Story 2 in theatres (still a series favourite) and I had been a last minute substitute for a friends birthday party to see Monster’s Inc (I’m always a perfect last minute substitute, I’m like Christopher Plummer or Michael Giacchino). At nine years old I was too young to follow studio credits of course, that would come a year later with my first ever review: The Incredibles. My dad was willing to let me choose as I am always the most enthusiastic but I ultimately deferred to father knows best logic because it was Father’s Day week and I don’t remember making him any gifts that year I was proud of. This was the best way to make up for it. Were I wrong and Hulk bad (it was) I’d feel bad. Sometimes it’s better to allow someone to be wrong and spare yourself the guilt of the decision. But perhaps simply my dad hinted at taking me to see HULK if Nemo was bad. He didn’t need to. He was right.

I still lovingly cringe remembering how I hugged my dad at the same time in the theater when Nemo hugs his (shown in clip above). After the film we knew right away we had made the right call. [I’d make the wrong one choosing the kiddie movie over the adult picture 3 years later with Ice Age 2 and Inside Man, a rare blunder which lead to me lifelong obsess over box-office results.] But Nemo and my mother’s suggestion kicked off going to the theatres just my dad and me for years and it continues to this day (The two of us recently saw the last Star Wars movie).

The interesting thing about Nemo is that it is the rare childhood movie to hold up to scrutiny. It is gentle, beautiful and filled with love. From the craft of Pixar’s animation to Thomas Newman’s romantic score (which has a few cues similar to Skyfall) it is still arguably Pixar’s best effort to date. Finding Nemo is rated G for all general audiences. There’s no swearing, no grisly violence (much is implied offscreen), it excludes no one. People who aren’t into science fiction aren’t put out by it like they would be Star Wars and there is no deep mythology you have to know going in. I appreciate Finding Nemo more as I grow older. And it continues to be studied in screenwriting craft. It’s that good.

It’s a shame director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, WALL-E) did not make a smoother transition to directing live action like his contemporary Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Ratatouille) who directed Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. Bird’s career would later stumble when he nobly turned down surefire hit Star Wars: Episode VII in favour of an original idea Tomorrowland co-written by Damon Lindelof (don’t do a feature film with Lindelof), which ended up losing a lot of money for Disney. However it wasn’t as big a loser as Stanton’s live action debut John Carter which lost the studio $250 million at the time. Both Stanton and Bird went back on the Pixar payroll with easy massive hit follow ups: Finding Dory & Incredibles 2. However, They have yet to return to live action feature filmmaking since. Stanton has directed TV shows, notably doing a high profile Stranger Things episodes: parts 5 & 6 in Season Two. And last month he did an episode of Amazon series Tales From The Loop but I yearn to see him direct on the big screen again. Perhaps I’ll write something for him.

Every corner of Finding Nemo is sublime and it raises the bar for storytelling; the voice acting, the music, the sound, the animation, the screenplay and the direction. If an animated film of this caliber were released today it surely would receive a Best Picture nomination a la Toy Story 3 & Up but I recognize it is because of films like Nemo that came before and raised the bar for storytelling and artistic achievement that people continue to search for the next great cinematic adventure.

Pixar Movies seen in theatres:

  • Toy Story 2 (1999)
  • Monster’s Inc. (2001)
  • Finding Nemo (2003)
  • The Incredibles (2004)
  • Cars (2006)
  • WALL-E (2008)* The last Pixar film I loved, although I liked Toy Story 4 (2019) I didn’t see it theatrically because my mom bailed on me.
  • Up (2009)
  • Inside Out (2015)
  • Incredibles 2 (2018)

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