A re-release whose cash-grab intentions are as transparent as the crystal-clear Sydney ocean, Finding Nemo 3-D exists only to relieve parents of money for a movie they undoubtedly already own. Disney’s double-dip of Andrew Stanton’s beloved 2003 adventure features absolutely no new content—save for the boisterous prefacing short “Partysaurus Rex,” with Toy Story‘s characters—so those looking for supplementary material will have to wait for the inevitable special-edition DVD that should follow in this pointless theatrical engagement’s wake. Nonetheless, refusing to muck with success seems a logical tack given that Stanton’s film remains a touching children’s saga of loss, trust, parental separation anxiety, and a father’s love for his son—albeit one that, in this iteration, merely further reinforces the absolute superfluousness of 3-D, which here never feels like anything more than a tacked-on device devoid of artistic purpose.
Full of humor and heart, Stanton’s fable revolves around the universal parental fear of losing one’s offspring, which in this case is the traumatic fate that befalls papa clown fish Marlin (Albert Brooks) when his disabled son Nemo (Alexander Gould) is scooped up by a scuba diver and deposited in an Australian dentist’s fish tank. Having already lost his wife and most of his unhatched brood to a deep-sea predator, the overly protective Marlin is compelled by Nemo’s capture to embark on an epic odyssey to Sydney. That journey results in harrowing and touching encounters with, among others, a trio of sharks trying to squelch their fish-eating hunger via self-help meetings, an ocean-bottom monster, a group of surfer-esque turtles, and—most important of all—bubbly short-term-memory-challenged sidekick Dory (Ellen DeGeneres). Nine years later, Marlin and Dory’s yin-yang chemistry is as fresh as ever, as are the film’s sweet lessons about the difficulty and necessity of parents learning to believe in and let go of their kids, as well as—through Nemo’s attempt to escape the fish tank through the mentorship of scarred elder Gill (Willem Dafoe)—its portrait of courageous coming-of-age maturation.
Yet while the proceedings are immeasurably enlivened by the droll neurosis of Brooks and his bickering chemistry with the amusingly flighty DeGeneres, the value afforded by 3-D is an ever-present issue in Finding Nemo 3-D, and not to the film’s benefit. A few scattered standout moments strive to justify shelling out additional cash for this do-over, including a Nemo POV shot from inside a plastic bag and the sight of Marlin and Dory being blown sky-high out of a whale’s spout. And the contrast between foreground and background imagery certainly lends added depth to the aquatic action, at least until such visual novelty wears off after the tale’s first 10 minutes. Alas, as with its animated brethren, be they similar redoes like last year’s The Lion King 3-D or new releases like June’s Brave, the film’s gimmicky glasses-required effects give new meaning to the word unnecessary, failing to enhance either excitement or pathos, and instead proving to be just a grating distraction fit only for Nemo‘s “Mine! Mine! Mine!” birds.