You have to love a film that packs a theater full of two-year-olds and then delivers the following message: "Your mother could die at any moment." This is exactly what happens to Coral (Elizabeth Perkins), the clown fish wife of Marlin (Albert Brooks), in this animated film from Pixar.
Coral is trying to protect about 400 fish eggs and is eaten alive by some scavenger fish with sharp, nasty teeth. This inspired a collective scream from the approximately 400 children in the audience, followed by a reactive scream from 400 mothers as the frightened tykes clutched them tightly enough to draw blood.
In the film, this trauma causes Marlin to overprotect his lone offspring, Nemo (Alexander Gould), who promptly gets picked up in a net and relegated to a fish tank in a dentist's office in Sydney after he strays from his father's sight during the first day of school. Hmmm, another brilliant message for the young 'uns: You'll be knocking on death's door the second you stray from your parents' field of view.
Marlin spends the rest of the film searching for Nemo. Naturally, he will eventually find him, but that's because this is a cartoon fantasy. Even two-year-olds will realize that the chances of being found if they go missing in the real world are almost nil. By the time they're four years old, they'll also realize that the chances of their own parents even trying half as hard as Marlin to find them are pretty remote too. Hell, my dad used to teach me to swim by taking me up to the dam and tossing me into the lake right in front of the hydroelectric intake valve. After a few trips through the turbine, I learned that he wasn't gonna come searching for me and turn his son into some sort of crybaby liberal pansy-boy in the process. But you know what else I learned? I learned to swim! Now that's the kind of parenting that builds character.
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