Leave it to a g-rated cartoon to give the live-action epics a lesson in action, fun and bracing originality. Pixar, the animation house behind Monsters, Inc., A Bug's Life and the two Toy Story classics, lands another winner for Disney. Kid stuff? You tell me. Little Nemo no sooner loses his mom than he's kidnapped, leaving his dad to find him before Sonny Boy is sold off or flushed.
If the characters weren't fish, and deliciously comic, the damn thing would be traumatic. The voice work is exceptional, from Albert Brooks as Marlin, the neurotic clown-fish dad, to Barry Humphries (a.k.a. Dame Edna) as Bruce the shark and Geoffrey Rush as a nosy pelican. Ellen DeGeneres is howlingly funny as Dory, a scatterbrained blue tang who travels with Marlin through the terrors of Australia's Great Barrier Reef until they find Nemo living in a fish tank owned by a dentist in Sydney. The doc's young niece, Darla, has braces and a nasty streak for fish. She enters to the theme from Psycho.
The view from the fish tank to the dentist's chair and the window overlooking the harbor is just one of the visual wonders of a film that rewrites the book on animating water, which experts say is the hardest element to achieve. And I haven't mentioned the other sea predators, such as the pink jellyfish and a razor-toothed anglerfish. Co-writer and director Andrew Stanton, who also provides the surfer-dude voice of a helpful turtle named Crush, makes miracles look easy. The result is a thing of beauty, hugely entertaining and way cool.