"Finding Nemo" is one of those animated films where it's hard for me to say anything that hasn't already been said about. I was very young when this film came out in 2003 and even then I knew this film was huge and had already become an instant classic. Throughout the years, this film has been cemented in pop culture and is often seen as one of Pixar's defining crown jewels in their vast library of fantastic animated films. Throughout my life, I've seen this film hundreds of times and to this day I still adore it. This is one of those animated films that never ages and still stays as funny and fresh as it did when it first came out. It's a genuine animated classic and I love it so much.
After a clownfish named Marlin (Albert Brooks) loses his wife Coral and all but one of his unhatched children, he becomes very overprotective of his son Nemo (Alexander Gould) and swears to not let anything happen to him. One day though after a heated argument between the two, Nemo is taken by divers from his home in the Great Barrier Reef and placed in a dentist's office in Sydney. After attempting to chase the boat that Nemo was taken on, Marlin ends up bumping into a blue tang named Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) who happens to suffer from short term memory loss and together the two set off across the Pacific to reach Nemo while encountering lots of various underwater sea life along the way. Meanwhile, Nemo ends up discovering that he needs to get out of the dentist's office soon as the dentist plans to give Nemo to his niece Darla who is known for killing fish. With the help of the other fish in the tank known as the Tank Gang including the moorish idol Gill (Willem Dafoe), pufferfish Bloat (Brad Garrett), starfish Peach (Allison Janney), yellow tang Bubble (Stephen Root), royal gramma Gurgle (Austin Pendleton), damselfish Deb (Vicki Lewis), and cleaning shrimp Jacques (Joe Ranft), Nemo plans to escape the tank and reunite with his father.
As I said at the beginning, it's really hard for me to think of anything new to say about this film that hasn't already been said, but I'm gonna try my best. When this film came out, it was gigantic and ended up becoming the second highest-grossing film of that year right behind "The Return of the King" and cemented Pixar's status as unbeatable animation pioneers. Watching the film once again, it's clear to see why audiences fell in love with this film almost twenty years ago and why it's still a beloved animation classic to this day. The story is quite honestly perfect. Every scene in this film is so perfectly paced and well thought out that the film flows so well without feeling rushed or underdeveloped. It also manages to perfectly balance the two plots in an idyllic fashion that it never feels that the film is losing focus or getting off course. It also helps that the screenplay is so funny and smart that its led way to some iconic moments that we cannot forget. Throughout their journey, Marlin and Dory encounter so many characters that lead to some iconic sequences with my favorite easily being the one where they hop across the tops of jellyfish trying to get to the East Australian Current. We all remember the funny lines like "Fish are friends, not food" from the sharks, "Sweet, totally" from the turtles, and of course the hilarious simple line from the seagulls that is "Mine". This screenplay is one of the best that has ever been written for an animated film and it rightfully was nominated for an Academy Award. As far as the animation goes, this animation has held up exquisitely. Sometimes the best computer animation has been known to show its age over the years. Not here. I'd go as far as to say the computer animation in this film is timeless and still looks as gorgeous and breathtaking as it did way back in 2003. The gorgeous colors, the eye-catching character designs, the beautiful sets. Everything in this film looks so delicate and divine. The water in this film is easily the biggest highlight. It's often very hard to animate convincing computer-animated water as at worst it can come off looking more like jello. In this film, the water looks breathtaking and I love the small details like the molecules floating in the water and the rays from the sunlight beaming down. The animators clearly did a lot of homework into researching the underwater world for this film and it paid off phenomenally and a lot of computer-animated films that use vast amounts like "Moana" have this film to thank. It also helps that the film has a lot of moments where the audience can breathe in the film's atmosphere where we absorb the visuals and the vast underwater world which is perfectly complemented by Thomas Newman's flawless and dreamlike score. As far as the characters go, each one of them is fleshed out perfectly and feels believable. With all of the traits the characters have, they could've come across as unbearable with Marlin feeling too stubborn with his overprotective nature, Dory coming across as annoying with her short-term memory loss, and Nemo coming across as too cutesy with his brave nature. Fortunately, that was not the case. All the characters feel fully realized with the performances from Brooks, DeGeneres, and Gould making these characters more than cutouts. They all have so much personality and memorable moments and play off the characters they come across so brilliantly that I just couldn't help but smile. There are also too many memorable supporting characters to count from the sharks who are trying to abstain from eating fish to the sea turtles with personalities of surfers. It all leads to a world that feels so lived in and believable that you can't help but be engrossed in the world that Pixar has created.
This is among many reasons why "Finding Nemo" has held its place as an animated classic. The story is perfectly realized and flawless, the animation is exquisite and timeless, and the characters are hilarious and unique with their fun personalities. This is easily among Pixar's all-time greatest films and one that has rightly earned its place in pop culture. I've always adored this film and I'll continue to do so for many years to come. It's a film that just keeps swimming and keeps being fantastic.