best films: #56: FINDING NEMO (2003)

Remember the days before Shrek 2 came along and totally stole away the thunder of the massively successful and always cute and funny Finding Nemo. And I do mean days, because it was less than year that it took for the former to usurp the latter’s throne on the top of the most successful animated film of all time heap. But rest assured that Finding Nemo is far more than some throwaway sequel could ever be. It is, in fact, one of the best animated efforts ever made, and here’s why – it showcases great voice talent (namely Ellen DeGeneres as forgetful Dory, in one of the best vocal performances in filmdom), it features an intelligent narrative that doesn’t talk down to its audience, and, well, whalespeak. Now, I’m not going to commit myself to saying this was Pixar’s best work (for that info, you’ll have to stick around and see where the rest of the countdown goes), but it certainly ranks within the top half. Jam-packed with clever little references (Bruce the Shark was named after the prop shark from Jaws!) and great supporting voice work (Allison Janney, you know who you are!), Nemo has a lot going for it. (And how much fun was it to realize just recently that the voice of the title character is the now-juvenile-delinquent Shane on Showtime’s Weeds?) And it’s certainly always a nicety to find a kids’ movie that caters to wide age ranges, so the younger give it full attention and the older can keep from rolling their eyes too much. So go see some umpteenth Shrek sequel if you like, but give me anything Pixar touches first. In a heart beat.

Standout Performance: Come now, it’s DeGeneres of course. She created one of the future movie icons, which is no easy feat, considering she’s a scatter-brained tropical fish.
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