Finding Nemo

Review by Guido Henkel

Finding Nemo  (2003)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment

Length:        100 mins.
Rated:          G
Format:       Anamorphic Widescreen · 1.78:1
                      Fullframe
Languages:English, French, Spanish
Subtitles:    English
Extras:        Commentary Track
                     Documentary
                     Featurette
                     Gallery
                     Games
                     Short Film
                     Virtual Aquarium
                     and much more

Pixar Studios has a reputation for putting out some of the most technically advanced and entertaining computer generated films. They seem to have the magic touch, always managing to never let technology get in the way of their storytelling, thus creating masterfully crafted films that are engaging, riveting, touching and just plain fun to watch. Their latest effort is "Finding Nemo," a movie that takes us into the depths of the ocean, and coming as another 2-disc Special Edition, I was eager to check it out.

The story revolves around the clownfish Marlin (Albert Brooks), the overprotective father of little Nemo (Alexander Gould). Traumatized by an event that we get to witness at the beginning of the movie, Marlin tries to keep all harm from Nemo, but one day, Nemo is captured by divers as they explore the coral reef and taken away. Marlin is dead-set to rescue his son and dashes off into the big blue unknown. Teaming up with Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a forgetful but very concerned fish, he is suddenly thrown into situations and adventures that will change his life forever.

I would love to tell you every bit of detail about this incredible story, but half the fun is just watching it unfold, as tragic and dramatic moments are masterfully countered by some great hilarious ones that truly carry the Pixar signature.

While in my mind, nothing can touch the "Toy Story" movies, "Finding Nemo" clearly ranks up there with them. It is an incredibly sweet story that speaks from the heart to the heart. At the same time it is a true adventure thrill ride with all the surprises, twists and thrills you’d expect from a quality adventure movie. And let’s not forget the incredible look of this movie…

"Finding Nemo" is perfectly cast, true and simple. Albert Brooks as Marlin is putting just the right amount of seriousness, trepidation, despair and emotion into his play to make Marlin a true tragic hero. It is, however, Ellen DeGeneres, who takes the cake as Dory. All her comedic skills are culminating in this character. Impeccable timing and delivery of her lines make Dory and her antics the single-most memorable character in the film. From the doe-eyed stare to her hilarious whale-speak, you will be rolling on the floor seeing and hearing this performance. But also all other parts are perfectly suited, including luminaries such as Willem Dafoe as Gill, Brad Garret as Bloat, Geoffrey Rush, Vicki Lewis, Elisabeth Perkins, and director Andrew Stanton himself as Crush the surfer sea turtle.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment and Pixar are once again delivering a spectacular version of "Finding Nemo" on this DVD. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation found on the first disc of the set is simply amazing. Rock solid – coming from a direct digital transfer of course – and absolutely without flaws, the transfer is a sight to see. Highly detailed and sharp it is a showcase presentation for DVD. Given the fact that the movie is using some of the most subtle color hues and shades, I was surprised to find virtually no banding and other compression artifacts. The colors are so incredibly rich that they leap off the screen making you feel as if a veil has been pulled of your TV screen. Clearly this is one of the best DVD presentations out there.

On the audio side, the DVD impresses just as much. The 5.1 channel Dolby Digital EX mix is incredibly engaging and active, making use of the surrounds like few animated films have. Gary Rydstrom really pulled all the stops on this film and you will be bombarded with sound effects from all directions – noticeably including the center rear that is part of the EX mix - or dive into a fully immersive ambient sound field that truly makes you feel you are under water. The frequency response is impeccable and the presentation delivers an amazing bass extension and crystal clear high ends.

The DVD contains a commentary track featuring directors Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich, as well as co-writer Bob Peterson. The three make for a super commentary track, talking very candidly about their experience to put together this film. The commentary track is extended by inserts of footage that explains certain aspects of the movie in more detail as the occasion arises. These additional clips are also very well produced and to the point, truly giving you a much better understanding and appreciation for the matter at hand. While not as detailed and poignant as Pixar’s John Lasseter is in his commentary tracks, Stanton still manages to point out great tidbits and gives the commentary a good flow. All three of them together have a wealth of information to share and they do it in a very entertaining fashion, so make sure to check it out. You won’t regret it.

A "Making Of" Documentary is also included on the DVD, which takes you behind the scenes of the production. It is almost like a brief diary and contains interviews with the filmmakers as they go along making the movie. A lot of candid footage from meetings and work in progress is included here and all the participants explain the highly technical nature of their work in plain terms that can be easily understood, further illustrating it with pieces of art. Once again we have a top-notch supplement here that greatly enhances the release.

A gallery with artwork from the movie is also included here, narrated by the artists themselves. Illustrating the thought process and work that goes into these art assets, this segment is extremely interesting for anyone interested in animation as a whole.

If you ever get bored staring at your empty TV screen, the Pixars have also included a virtual aquarium for you on the DVD, which is fun, mostly because it is computer generated and not real.

The second disc of the set contains a fullscreen version of the movie that has been reformatted by adding image information at the top and bottom of the screen. Pixar has always been very good at doing these fullframe transfers and the one for "Finding Nemo" is no different, making sure it never feels out of place or forced. The supplements on this second disc are much more family oriented than the ones on the first, consisting mostly of games and bits of entertainment. You can play "Fisharades" like the ones seen in the film, you can learn about life in the coral reef with Mr. Ray, or you can enjoy the storytime included on the disc. One of the highlights of this disc is the documentary "Exploring the reef" with Jean-Michel Cousteau, son of the renowned late ocean biologist Jacques Cousteau. Cousteau is accompanied by the characters from the movie, making the documentary an entertaining and educational addition.

The classic Pixar short film "Knick Knack" is also found on this disc as well as a series of other small gems.

"Finding Nemo" is a great film and it comes on a great DVD. While the DVD set is a bit light on the film-centric supplements in favor of more family-oriented content, it still manages to satisfy both parties, I hope. The film is just a feast for the eye and a romp to watch, full of heart and soul, and the supplements makes a great addition through and through. "Finding Nemo" is clearly a must-have DVD for every fan on animated films, no matter how young or old. Glad to see that Pixar did it again!

    

October 30, 2003

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