Directed by: Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich
Written by:Andrew Stanton, Bob Peterson, David Reynolds
Starring: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould, Willem Dafoe, Brad Garrett, Allison Janney, Stephen Root, Geoffrey Rush, Vicki Lewis
Released: August 28, 2003
Grade: B+

Before even being released here in Australia, Finding Nemo has set a new box-office record in the United States as the highest grossing animated film in history.  The Lion King owned the previous benchmark but Finding Nemo has captured $330m to date to eclipse the long-standing record.

Sensing sold out sessions throughout its debut weekend, I snuck along to an evening session to avoid the big crowds and squealing kids.  There was still a large turnout with many adult couples seizing the opportunity to watch a light-hearted G-rated flick.  This is a sign of the way animated films are heading.  Once upon a time, they were musicals which lured kids with catchy songs.  Nowadays, humour is the selling point to lure audiences from all ages.

Finding Nemo comes to us with the highest acclaim.  The huge dollars have been matched by universal approval from critics.  According to the website Rotten Tomatoes, 161 out of the world’s 163 leading critics have given the film a positive review.  Who am I to argue?  There’s cute characters, a dash of sentimentality and humour which is very easy to understand.  However, I’m not jumping out of my skin with overwhelming support.  I’ve definitely seen animated flicks with more jokes (Shrek), more story (Spirited Away) and better feeling (Toy Story).

The setting is the ocean and our lead is a clown fish named Marlin.  His only son, Nemo, was captured by divers and he’s now scouring the ocean to find him.  One of the divers left a mask behind and Marlin knows that Sydney is the first place to start looking.  Offering him assistance and becoming his partner along the way is a fish named Dory.  Dory is easily the funniest character of the bunch given she continually suffers from short-term memory loss, although the joke is a touch overused.

Along the way, they encounter a variety of sea creatures (both friendly and not so friendly).  Kids will lap it up.  As we watch Marlin and his adventure, we also follow Nemo’s story.  He’s been placed in a goldfish tank in a dental surgery where he meets a few new fish friends of his own.  Together, they’re plotting an elaborate escape so they can all get back to the deep blue sea where they belong.

There’s an assortment of voices with an Australian flavour, as you’d expect.  Geoffrey Rush, Barry Humphries and Eric Bana all appear.  Let’s not forget Bill Hunter who continues his streak of appearing in just about every Australian film made in the past year.  Ellen DeGeneres voices Dory and there are early whispers that she may become the first actress in history to be Oscar nominated for work in an animated film.  I see it as unlikely but she’s damn good.

From a children’s viewpoint, there’s no fault in Finding Nemo.  Adults looking for entertainment will undoubtedly find themselves amused but not as satisfied.  The cliché that I often like to use to describe such films is “good without being great.”