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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that even though there are no traditional bad guys in Finding Nemo, there are still some very scary moments, including large creatures with zillions of sharp teeth, the apparent death of a major character, and many tense scenes with characters in peril. And at the very beginning of the movie, Marlin's wife and all but one of their eggs are eaten by a predator -- a scene that could very well upset little kids. Expect a little potty humor amid the movie's messages of teamwork, determination, loyalty, and a father's never-ending love for his son. The issue of Nemo's stunted fin is handled exceptionally well -- matter-of-factly but frankly.
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What's the story?
In FINDING NEMO, clown fish Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks) is a fond but nervous dad -- understandably so, since a predator ate his wife and all but one of their eggs. When it's time for Marlin's surviving son, Nemo (Alexander Gould) -- who has an underdeveloped fin -- to start school, the little guy is excited, but Marlin is terrified. Marlin has done a good job of making Nemo feel confident and unselfconscious, but he's still overprotective, which makes Nemo anxious to prove that he can take care of himself. But Marlin's worst fears are realized when Nemo is captured by a deep-sea-diving dentist who collects fish for his aquarium. On a journey that will introduce him to extraordinary characters and teach him a great deal about the world and even more about himself, Marlin must go literally to the end of the ocean to find his son and bring him home. On the way he meets Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a cheerful blue tang who has a problem with short-term memory loss. They search for Nemo together in the face of stinging jellyfish, exploding mines, and creatures with many, many, teeth. Meanwhile, Nemo makes some very good friends in the dentist's aquarium, including a tough tiger fish (Willem Dafoe) who helps him plan an escape. The 2012 DVD release includes the short film Knick Knack.
Is it any good?
Pixar may have the most advanced animation technology in the world, but they never forget that what matters most in a movie is story, characters, imagination, and heart. Finding Nemo has it all. Yes, it's a visual feast (the play of light on the water is breathtaking), but above all it's an epic journey filled with adventure and discovery that encompasses the grandest sweep of ocean vastness and the smallest longing of the heart. While preserving the characters' essential "fishy-ness," Pixar and the talented voice actors have also made them each wonderfully expressive.
While there are certainly some terrifying-looking creatures and scary moments in Finding Nemo -- including the off-screen death of Marlin's wife and future children -- there really are no bad guys here; the danger comes from a child's thoughtlessness and from natural perils. And there are no angry, jealous, greedy, or murderous villains as in most traditional Disney animated films. (One of the movie's best jokes is that even the toothy sharks are so friendly that, in an AA-style program, they keep reminding one another that "fish are friends, not food.") Another strength of the movie is the way it handles Nemo's disability. But best of all is the way it addresses questions that are at the heart of the parent-child relationship, giving everyone in the audience something to relate to and learn from.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how parents have to balance their wish to protect their children from being hurt (physically or emotionally) with the need to let them grow up and learn how to take care of themselves, like Marlin has to in Finding Nemo. Kids: How do your parents handle this?
Talk about Nemo's disability and about how everyone has different abilities. How do you know what your abilities are, and what do you do to make the most of them?
What parts of the movie were scary? Why? Did anything that you think was going to be scary turn out not to be so bad?
- In theaters: May 30, 2003
- On DVD or streaming: December 4, 2012
- Cast: Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Willem Dafoe
- Directors: Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich
- Studio: Pixar Animation Studios
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures, Ocean Creatures
- Character strengths: Compassion, Courage, Gratitude, Perseverance
- Run time: 101 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Awards/Honors: Common Sense Media Award
- Last updated: November 29, 2019
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