The animation may be jaw-droppingly gorgeous, but the story felt more like a traditional Disney heart-warmer than an imaginative Pixar flight of fancy. Marlin’s Odyssey was a checklist of ocean-based set-piece encounters leading inevitably to him being reunited with Nemo. The encounters themselve are amusing, and filled with humour and surprises, but there is never any doubt about how the film as a whole will end. Pixar’s other films, Toy Story (1 and 2), A Bug’s Life, and Monsters, Inc., all created a sense of uncertainty: you knew it would turn out well, with the heroes pulling through in the end, but you didn’t know how they would do so. With Finding Nemo you can see exactly how it’s going to end; the only question is which stepping stones the writers will use on the way there.
Also, in all the other Pixar films, the protagonists themselves are comedic figures. In Nemo, it’s the supporting cast who provide all the laughs. Marlin and Nemo are the serious characters you’re supposed to empathise with, and who are designed to tug your heart strings. It felt emotionally manipulative in a classic Disney way: think of, say, Beauty and the Beast or The Lion King. Yes, it made me cry; but no, it didn’t make me happy.