Finding Nemo

Finding Nemo (A+)

Helicopter parenting under the sea.

Finding Nemo (2003) is classic Pixar: soulful story, funny characters, beautiful animation, and some scares.  When divers steal a young clownfish, Nemo, from his home on Australia’s coral reef, Nemo’s overprotective, anxious father, Marlin (Albert Brooks), goes on a quest to find him.  Along the way, Marlin befriends an affable, forgetful blue tang fish, Dory (the very funny Ellen DeGeneres).  Together, they come across aspiring vegetarian sharks, a jellyfish forest, surfer turtles, a whale, and hungry seagulls.  Meanwhile, little Nemo tries to get home with the help of the fish in his tank, led by Gil (Willem Dafoe).

Nemo is a wonderful movie for kids AND adults.  It depicts helicopter parenting with humor, not contempt.  And the interplay between Marlin and Dory is terrific; Dory’s goofiness and unflappability is a callback to the hare-brained heroines from the silver screen (Katherine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby, for one).  Kids will be able to identify with Nemo’s attempts to fit in with his peers, first at school and later in the fish tank.  And Nemo’s struggle with his damaged fin offers kids insight about overcoming disabilities. 

But be warned!!  This movie is not meant for super-little kids.  There are some seriously upsetting scenes here.  NIGHTMARE ALERTS!!  I won’t play coy.  The scariest bits of the movie are: (1) the opening scene, where Nemo’s mom and would-be siblings get killed by a barracuda; (2) Dory and Marlin’s visit to a shark 12-step meeting, which goes from hilarious to scary when Bruce, the Great White, gets the munchies; and (spoiler alert) (3) Nemo’s apparent death after saving a bunch of tuna from a fishing boat (Nemo is fine, but Pixar lets the illusion of death linger for a bit too long).

So should you let your kids watch it?  For kids 5 and up, I’d say yes.  Earlier than that, take it slow and maybe skip over the scary bits OR sit with your kid and murmur to her that everything will be alright: the movie’s called Finding Nemo, not Finding Nemo’s Dead Body.

P.S.  One of the tropes of the movie is that “all drains lead to the ocean.”  Little kids all over the world believed this and started flushing their guppies down toilets, hoping to “free” them.  Parents had to take kids aside and explain that most drains actually lead to sewage plants.

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