I was planning for this to be my first animated movie to list here since I started this all the way back in last month. I am a huge fan of the Disney/Pixar films, and this has always been my favourite. Not only is it totally quotable (my friends and I were saying “Sweeet” “Toootaly” even before the film hit theatres), but it’s a perfect blend of humour and emotion. In fact, in my opinion the only Pixar film with more emotion than Finding Nemo is UP. In third place right behind Finding Nemo is Toy Story 3.
And we get the emotion right away. Every trailer for the movie made it seem like it was funny all the way through, and we were treated to a dark introduction, when Nemo’s mother, Coral (Elizabeth Perkins), and all his unborn siblings are killed by a barracuda. After growing up with Pixar films that were mostly hilarious and/or adorable, this was a huge shock to me. Before this scene, the darkest thing I’d seen in one is Randal from Monsters INC, and the most emotional thing I’d seen in one was Sully saying goodbye to Boo in the same movie (the “When She Loved Me” scene from Toy Story 2 felt forced, and I never felt like it was really an emotional scene).
Immediately afterward you see that this has made Marlin (Albert Brooks) very paranoid. If Nemo (Alexander Gould) leaves his sight, he calls out for him. He;s overprotective to the point where he wouldn’t let him play with the other children. It’s this over-protection that drives Nemo to defy Marlin by swimming out into the Drop Off despite his gimpy fin and touch a boat, which leads to him being taken by an Australian dentist named Phillip Sherman (Bill Hunter).
Without any hesitation at all, not even to go back and prepare for a journey, Marlin sets off after the boat to find his son. You can feel his desperation as he chases but finds that the boat is much to fast, and he quickly loses sight of it. When he goes back below the surface to ask if anyone saw where the boat went to, he quite literally runs into Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), who at first glance appears to be nuts, forgetting that she was helping Marlin find the boat she saw, thinking he’s stalking her. When they come across a shark a minute later, Marlin is terrified, but Dory swims up to him and says, “Well. HI!”.
Shortly after this, we find out where Nemo went off to. He’s in an aquarium at a dentist office. After we meet the fish in the tank, Nemo accidentally gets stuck in the tube for the filter. When he calls for help, Gill (Willem Dafoe) tells him to get himself out. After an entire life of being told he can’t do things, Nemo has been told for the first time that he can, and he does.
Dory shows bravery once again when the only clue to where Nemo was taken falls down to the darkest part of the ocean, and she casually swims down there while Marlin hides just above the darkness. She encourages him to “just keep swimming”, even though we all know that the most dangerous part of the ocean is the dark parts. He eventually joins her. They do, in fact, run into danger, but Dory stays calm and reads the clue. Jon Negroni explains in The Pixar Theory why her being able to read is proof of something much bigger. I’d go into it, but you’d really have to read his post to fully understand (no really, go read that right now!).
Dory and Marlin run into a school of fish who specifically tell her to swim through a trench, not over it. When she tells Marlin to “trust me”, he talks her into swimming over it. They end up running into a mass of jelly fish and they both get injured. This is important for near the end. They are hanging from the tongue of a whale that’s telling them to go to the back of it’s throat (it….it makes more sense in context). She tell him to let go and when he calls her crazy, she says “trust me!”, and he remembers the last time he didn’t trust her they got hurt. When they let go and the whale blows them out, he realizes that she’s not as dumb as she looks.
If it seems I am focusing mostly on Dory, it’s because I feel she’s the most important character in this film. When you first meet her, you assume she’s a complete idiot, someone you could never trust. But over the course of the movie you learn that not only can you trust her when she says “trust me”, she’s also one of the smartest characters. She appears to be the only sea creature in the film who can read (again, that’s covered in The Pixar Theory), and she speaks Whale. To me, she is the most important character in the film. It really didn’t surprise me when I learned the title of the sequel will be Finding Dory.