Bruce Almighty

Carrey plays Bruce Nolan, only the second person in history to register a complaint with The Man Upstairs and

God's girlfriend is Jennifer Anniston in Bruce Almighty.
receive a personal response. Any similarity between the two ends here, however. While the Bible's Job was the unwilling guinea pig in a grueling, heaven-approved experiment to test the limits of human emotional endurance (his livestock, servants, and children were killed, for those readers who skipped Sunday school), Universal Pictures' Bruce is a self-absorbed jerk with a steady job as a reporter, a nice apartment, and Jennifer Anniston as a girlfriend. But, darn it, that is just not enough to stave off the crushing ennui of modern life, so with every minor inconvenience, Bruce is loudly kvetching to the sky. Instead of infecting him with the pus-filled boils he deserves, Morgan Freeman as God grants Bruce all of His powers and challenges the lowly mortal to do a better job.

It is a premise that exhausts itself very quickly. Carrey's penchant for rubber-faced histrionics makes him

Bruce Almighty
Dir. Tom Shadyack; writ. Michael O'Keefe; feat. Jim Carrey, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Anniston (PG-13)
the perfect candidate for such a role, but, unfortunately, the script denies him the opportunity to do anything the least bit interesting with it. After the novelty of witnessing Bruce's newfound abilities wears off, nothing remains to fill the vacuum but the disappointing realization that the exciting and thought provoking possibilities the filmmakers could have explored have been instead co-opted by a procession of increasingly tiresome parlor-tricks and pranks. It's enough to turn a guy into an atheist. — JOE WEISS

Finding Nemo

Disney's bulldozer-like campaign to carve a Mickey-shaped meme into the minds of the young is an exhausting, homogenizing phenonemon that has compromised its reputation in the minds of many. Having long ago swapped Walt's wide-eyed wonder for increases in market share, the company's leaders need all the magic they can buy; they should cling to the breath-of-fresh-air artistry of Pixar-like shipwreck survivors to a lifeboat. Not only are Pixar's films (which are made independently of Disney, but marketed by them) better than anything the Mouse-House has churned out of late, but their reputation is sterling. One of CGI-geniuses is creating toys and animals that act more human than Hollywood's highest-paid Homo saps ever could.

Finding Nemo is a proud continuation of this tradition. It comes alive with the perfect ratio of drama to hyperkinetic irreverence that made predecessors such as Toy Story, A Bug's Life, and Monsters, Inc. such lucrative, critically lauded

Finding Nemo
Dir. Andrew Stanton; writ. Andrew Stanton; feat. Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Alexander Gould (G)
efforts. For every pratfall the kids will find hilarious, the script provides a dash of higher-brow humor parents can appreciate, all set against an unprecedented backdrop of color and motion that's impossible to ignore.

Nemo's narrative is propelled by a motif as old as Hansel and Gretel: the separation of parent and child and the trauma it produces. When clownfish Marlin loses his only son, the title character, to a dentist scuba-diving for additions to his office aquarium, the inevitable quest to rescue him begins. In his journey, Marlin experiences the dangers, setbacks, period of disillusionment, and eventual revitalization that characterizes the cyclical nature of such tales. The theme is nothing new, but will forever resonate with any child who has lost sight of a parent in a bustling crowd, and vice-versa.

It is soon apparent that what sets Nemo apart from say, a Lifetime Network movie of the week, lies in the details. Whereas the frame of a live-action movie is filled with the familiar background debris of the flesh-and-blood environment, Pixar worlds must be baked from digital scratch. Nowhere are such efforts more rewarding than in Finding Nemo, with its fathoms of ocean and the vibrantly realized cast of personalities that call them home. There is Dory, Marlin's faithful companion who can't remember what she said or did five minutes ago, a surfer-talking sea turtle 150 years old but still young at heart, and a gargantuan, dagger-toothed shark as peaceful and misunderstood as he is fearsome looking. "I haven't eaten a fish in three weeks," he proclaims at an AA-type meeting for reforming carnivores. "Fish are friends, not food." Meanwhile, in his captivity, Nemo is learning about himself and harnessing courage he didn't know he had to overcome a congenital deformity and attempt escape. It's a struggle that parallels his father's battle with the crippling bouts of anxiety that have plagued him since the day of his mate's violent death. As the two converge upon one another, it's no longer clear who is rescuing whom.

Expert and heartfelt voice-acting by the likes of Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres complement the intelligent screenplay, which is in turn augmented by the splendor of Pixar's deep blue sea. All the pieces fit, and from the on-screen depths, something special arises. If Disney wants to recapture their past, they needn't look far to see how. — JOE WEISS


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