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Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington Wilmington@moviecitynews.com

Wilmington on Movies: Finding Nemo 3D

 

 

FINDING NEMO (Five Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition, with Blu-ray/DVD/3D) (Four Stars)

U.S.: Andrew Stanton & Lee Unkrich, 2003-12 (Walt Disney/Pixar)

Finding Nemo, the first one, was that epic 2003 Pixar computer-animated cartoon adventure about a boy clownfish named Nemo (Alexander Gould) and his nervous father Marlin, how they were separated on Australia‘s Great Barrier Reef, and how, nonetheless determined, they tried to find each other again, in an ocean world chockfull of danger and delight.

It’s one of the most popular movies ever made, and the second Finding Nemo, the new 3D version, doesn’t do anything to dampen that crowd-pleasing or diminish that delight. Far from it. The 3D-tweaked Nemo uses the stereoptic process to take us on a voyage just as wondrous (maybe a little more) than the flat one in 2003 — a spectacular journey once more (but deeper) though waving anemone and huge coral reefs, in and out of ocean floor trenches and canyons alive with ravenous angler fish , past strangely pacific but still blood-aroused sharks (including an inevitable Bruce, voiced by Barry Humphries), through deadly pink congregations of poisonous jellyfish, dropping in on underwater no-beach parties with hang-loose surf-turtle-dudes (including totally awesome Crush, voiced by the film’s prime creator the totally awesome, at least here, Andrew Stanton), and from the mouth of a pelican though the belly of a whale.

The old  Nemo was an already extraordinary journey through that meticulously created sea-world of anthropomorphized sea-creatures, conducted by our pleasingly heroic yet appealingly flawed and vulnerable movie hero and heroine (no actually, they’re just good friends): neurotic daddy clown fish Marlin (Albert Brooks, in the role he was born to play), and bouncy Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a thoroughly charming regal blue tang coping with short term memory loss.  Their goal (something they don’t know at first), the office fish-tank of the scuba-diving Sydney dentist, Dr. Sherman (Aussie movie legend Bill Hunter) who captured Nemo for his wicked little four-year-old neice Darla (LuLu Ebeling)…a fish-domicile where Nemo is imprisoned and which is also populated by a grizzled, great-escape-obsessed Moorish Idol named Gill (Willem Dafoe) and his Tank Gang buddies. When it comes to quests, that other Disneyfied Captain Nemo (wasn’t he played by James Mason?) never had it so good. Neither did we.

I’m no knee-jerk fan of  3D — given a choice, I’ll usually opt for the flat version — but this particular story, with its spectacular underwater backgrounds, and its great cast-of-fishy-characters turns out to be prime material for the added dimensions, The rippling currents and movements of the water are wonderfully rendered, the fishes and mammals and humans are all exquisitely designed. And they’re modeled on the real aquatic articles, from clownfish and sharks (Great White, Mako or Hammerhead) to Pacific cleaner shrimp and  blacktailed humbugs, but (usually) turned into amusingly cartoony big-eyed variants.  They also have great voices from a dramatis pisconae that also includes Gurgle the Royal Gamma (Austin Pendleton), Bloat the pufferfish (Brad Garrett), Nigel the Pelican (Geoffrey Rush), Peach the Starfish (Allison Janney) and Pixar touchstone John Ratzenberger as a whole school of moonfish — plus dozens of other ocean denizens swimming in and out.

What made the movie connect so infallibly to audiences, however — and is still richly present —  are the comical but beating hearts that voice actors Brooks and DeGeneres gave to all those beautiful sea-visuals. What a great dad to root for! What a great pal to accompany him, even if she does keep forgetting what you say to her.  The movie touches our hearts and makes us laugh almost simultaneously — moving us more deeply than usual from the very first scene where Marlin and Nemo’s mom Coral (Elizabeth Perkins), have a  reef confab over what to name their 400 eggs (he goes for Marlin, she favors Nemo), and 399 of them are suddenly prey to a shark — along with Coral. It’s a harrowing moment, but the movie treats it as both traumatic and part of the ongoing hazards of ocean life, which are still omnipresent. Finding Nemo is both funny and touching, partly because it has a sense of mortality from the very beginning. Marlin is a worrier — and who better for that than Brooks? But we worry about him (and Dory and the others) also.

Brooks is sometimes carped at as an actor who whines — which is rather like complaining that Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald were recording artists who sang. He’s a genius whiner, and anyone who thinks that his kvetching is a one-note samba, only has to look again at the great glib murderous villain role Brooks played in Drive. Conversely, DeGeneres’ bright, upbeat personality is perfect for Dory, and the animators keep their blur tang whipping around gaily (second sense) to accentuate it.

Finding Nemo was co-written (with Bob Peterson and David Reynolds) and co-directed (with Lee Unkrich) by Stanton, who first got the tinglings of the idea while taking his own kids to a California Marine World, and flashing back to a childhood memory of a fish tank in a Massachusetts dentist’s office and recalling how sorry he (the boy Andrew)  felt for all the the fish trapped inside. The ultimate result of that input — the gorgeously vast and thickly detailed Ocean vision of Finding Nemo — and of Finding Nemo 3D — somehow grew from that. And like all the best Pixars, it generates its own world, and draws us, bewitched and bemused, into it.

I‘ve said it before and  I’ll say it again: We adults deserve more movies done with the wit and imagination, the skill and creativity, the joy and love, that Pixar regularly puts into these movies “for children.” We should all have adventures and memories (however short)  like these. We should all find our Nemos — and our Corals, our Gills, our Dorys. And we  should all have a dad like Marlin, for all his damn whining. (Shut up already, you clownfish!)

 

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“I suddenly couldn’t say anything about some of the movies. They were just so terrible, and I’d already written about so many terrible movies. I love writing about movies when I can discover something in them – when I can get something out of them that I can share with people. The week I quit, I hadn’t planned on it. But I wrote up a couple of movies, and I read what I’d written, and it was just incredibly depressing. I thought, I’ve got nothing to share from this. One of them was of that movie with Woody Allen and Bette Midler, Scenes From a Mall. I couldn’t write another bad review of Bette Midler. I thought she was so brilliant, and when I saw her in that terrible production of ‘Gypsy’ on television, my heart sank. And I’d already panned her in Beaches. How can you go on panning people in picture after picture when you know they were great just a few years before? You have so much emotional investment in praising people that when you have to pan the same people a few years later, it tears your spirits apart.”
~ Pauline Kael On Quitting

“My father was a Jerome. My daughter’s middle name is Jerome. But my most vexing and vexed relationship with a Jerome was with Jerome Levitch, the subject of my first book under his stage and screen name, Jerry Lewis.

I have a lot of strong and complex feelings about the man, who passed away today in Las Vegas at age 91. Suffice to say he was a brilliant talent, an immense humanitarian, a difficult boss/interview, and a quixotic sort of genius, as often inspired as insipid, as often tender as caustic.

I wrote all about it in my 1996 book, “King of Comedy,” which is available on Kindle. With all due humility, it’s kinda definitive — the good and the bad — even though it’s two decades old. My favorite review, and one I begged St. Martin’s (unsuccessfully) to put on the paperback jacket, came from “Screw” magazine, which called it “A remarkably fair portrait of a great American asshole.”

Jerry and I met twice while I was working on the book and spoke/wrote to each other perhaps a dozen times. Like many of his relationships with the press and his partners/subordinates, it ended badly, with Jerry hollering profanities at me in the cabin of his yacht in San Diego. I wrote about it in the epilogue to my book, and over the years I’ve had the scene quoted back to me by Steve Martin, Harry Shearer, Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette. Tom Hanks once told me that he had a dinner with Paul Reiser and Martin Short at which Short spent the night imitating Jerry throwing me off the boat.

Jerry was a lot of things: father, husband, chum, businessman, philanthropist, artist, innovator, clown, tyrant. He was at various times in his life the highest-ever-paid performer on TV, in movies, and on Broadway. He raised BILLIONS for charity, invented filmmaking techniques, made perhaps a dozen classic comedies, turned in a terrific dramatic performance in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy,” and left the world altered and even enhanced with his time and his work in it.

That’s an estimable achievement and one worth pausing to commemorate.

#RIP to Le Roi du Crazy

~ Biographer Shawn Levy on Jerry Lewis on Facebook