Home Video Picks & Passes 06.26.16

Finding Nemo (2003) — PICK
Wall-E (2008) — PICK

Finding Dory director Andrew Stanton is responsible for two of Pixar’s great masterpieces. One, of course, is Finding Nemo, a movie that is not only the best father-son story in Hollywood animation history, but also gets more out of the computer-animation medium than any film to that time, and more than many films since.

Unlike the Toy Story films, or Shrek, etc., which one can imagine being made as traditional hand-drawn or even stop-motion animation, Finding Nemo must be computer animation. Its essence is inseparable from the splendor of its undersea world, realized in quasi-photographic grandeur and richness unmatched by any other technique.

Finding Nemo solidifies the orientation of previous Pixar films as family films aimed at parents. Marlin is a flawed but sympathetic widowed father, scarred by tragedy and loss and anxiously overprotective of his only son.

Unlike other animated films about overly controlling fathers learning to let their children be themselves (The Little Mermaid, How to Train Your Dragon), Finding Nemo empathizes as much with the father as with the son, and has as much to tell children about parental love and sacrifice as it has to tell parents about letting go.

Then there’s Wall-E, a flat-out miraculous animated fable that blends dystopian sci-fi, lyric romanticism, Swiftian social satire and existential awe into a poetic fantasy about a soulful robot laboring and longing all alone amid towers of refuse on an uninhabitable Earth. (At DecentFilms.com you can read a whole article I wrote about resonances between Wall-E and Pope Francis’ Laudato Si.)

Amid the rubble he works to collect and clean up, Wall-E collects and contemplates tokens of humanity — a hinged ring box, a Rubik’s Cube and, best of all, an old VHS copy of Gene Kelly’s Hello, Dolly! — in which he finds hints of meaning and joy.

Then one day, Wall-E’s world is shattered by a herald from a larger universe, and he is unmade and made anew by love. When love lifts him up and shows him a new world, he discovers at the same time the human cost of the way of life that ruined the Earth. As bleak as this vision is, mankind proves surprisingly resilient, and the ending is a hopeful one.

 

Caveat Spectator: Finding Nemo: Animated high excitement and menace; parental separation theme. Could be frightening to sensitive youngsters. Wall-E: Mild animated menace. Kids and up.

The Earth is Not Our Mother

“The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate.”—G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

The Earth is Not Our Mother

“The main point of Christianity was this: that Nature is not our mother: Nature is our sister. We can be proud of her beauty, since we have the same father; but she has no authority over us; we have to admire, but not to imitate.”—G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy