For the past 12 years, Disney and Pixar have been making movie magic. Together, they’ve been the mastermind moviemakers behind such childhood classics as The Incredibles; Toy Story 1, 2 and 3; Up; and Monsters, Inc. Now, one of their greatest collaborations, Finding Nemo, returns to theaters in breathtaking 3D. Put simply, it is a masterpiece—one that stands even better today than it did upon its premiere 10 years ago.
We all know the story: Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks) is a neurotic, manic, overprotective clownfish, father to Nemo (voiced by Alexander Gould). The reason he’s so high strung? When Nemo was still a little fish egg, a barracuda ate his mother and his hundreds of siblings, so perhaps Marlin’s approach to parenting isn’t so out of line. But such ceaseless doting soon stirs resentment between him and Nemo.
Mind you, though this could be a play-by-play of any noteworthy familial drama of the past 20 years, we’re talking about a family film starring a cast of fish and other sea life. Oh, the magic of Pixar.
Marlin’s worries soon push Nemo to blatantly disobey him. While on a school fieldtrip, he ignores Marlin’s orders and ventures into the open sea to touch a boat’s underbelly. “He touched the butt,” a schoolboy squid memorably quips. No harm no foul. But then, to everyone’s horror, Nemo is scooped up and bagged by curious scuba diver. For the rest of the film, Marlin pursues his son across the globe, eventually making his way to the diver’s dentistry office in Sydney, Australia.
Along the way, he meets some memorable friends who’ve cemented themselves as some of Disney’s most beloved characters. We’ve got Marlin’s foremost partner-in-crime, Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres). She’s a regal blue tang who suffers from short term memory loss—let the hilarity ensue. Then there’s Bruce and his cohort of fish-friendly sharks; Crush (voiced by writer/director Andrew Stanton), the surfer-dude sea turtle who points the fish to Sydney; and the list goes on.
There’s a character in this 2012 rendition, however, that wasn’t such a presence in the 2002 take. Through the wizardry of 3D technology, the seascape setting takes on a life all its own. The audience is taken from their buttery upholstered seats and plopped in the bustle of Nemo’s coral community. Not since Avatar has 3D so seamlessly transported its patrons into another world. In an industry where this technology is often overused as needless fluff and cheap thrills, Nemo reminds us that there are times when it can blow you away. This is how it’s done.
Of course, Marlin and Nemo’s trials are all tied into a prim and proper Disney bow by the film’s close, but for all its sentimentality, Finding Nemo delves into themes often glazed over in children’s entertainment. As an achingly real and touching account of familial bonds and lasting friendships, it is as much catered to adults as it is their inner child. Quite simply, it’s as good as movies get.