Back in 2003, Pixar Studio’s résumé was far less varied than it is now. Before the rat with culinary skills, airborne houses, linguistic cars, and mind-dwelling emotions, Pixar’s array of animated masterpieces were limited (“limited”) to talking toys, oppressed bugs, and energy-seeking monsters. Then along came Finding Nemo, a film brimming with warmth and vivacity, epic storytelling, memorable characters, and gorgeous animation that still looks just as mesmerizing as it did 13 years ago. Among its ensemble of memorable characters was Dory—–the charming blue tang with a knack for forgetting things. But now that Nemo has been found, Pixar has taken the opportunity to expound on Dory’s story.
Summary: (No spoilers)
One year after her tumultuous journey across the vast ocean, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) begins to have flashes of her past. When she remembers a vital clue regarding her parents’ whereabouts, she sets off to find them after years of not remembering anything about them. Determined to not allow somebody else he cares about get lost, Marlin (Albert Brooks——Taxi Driver) and his son Nemo accompany her. But when Dory is scooped up from the water and taken to a California marine rehabilitation center, Marlin and Nemo head in after her, accepting help along the way from the most unlikely of allies.
Also starring: Ed O’Neill, Ty Burrell, Kaitlin Olsen, Hayden Rolence, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Idris Elba, Dominic West, and Sigourney Weaver
Finding Nemo is among the greatest of Pixar’s prestigious achievements, so it only makes sense that its sequel would require just as much charm and whimsy as its predecessor. While the end result doesn’t quite deliver the greatness of the first, it does infuse it with enough of its best qualities.
As wildly entertaining as Dory is in Finding Nemo, she never seemed like the type of character that needed her own story. Sure, her past was an enigma, but we really didn’t need to see it (of course, what film do we ever need to see?). I was a bit worried that this film would feel like a stretch, only existing for the sake of capitalizing on its predecessor’s success. Yet every time I doubt Pixar I almost always find myself wondering why I did. In fact, I would say that Dory is a more appropriate title character than even Nemo was.
I was also pleased to see that characters from the first film are used sparingly (except, of course, for the main three), while some don’t make an appearance at all. I appreciate that only characters that truly added to the story were included. When a film like Finding Nemo makes such a big splash (no pun intended) with an audience, it’s just come to be expected that the sequel will throw as many of its favorite characters back onto the screen as it physically can. But with Finding Dory, it uses a few of the old characters but utilizes the opportunity to develop brand-new ones, not merely relying on the nostalgia of the original to carry it forward.
The voice acting is simply splendid; each voice sounds distinct yet appropriate. But the real MVP of the film is Ed O’Neill who voices an octopus named Hank. Gruff in nature yet lovable at his core, Hank’s journey feels organic and not at all forced. His allying with Dory feels natural and wholly plausible. But overall, not one character in the film feels even slightly annoying or heavy-handed, an aspect that most animated films these days (even, on occasion, a Disney film) is guilty of. But if we’re talking about loveable characters, then the epitome of loveable in this film is baby Dory. Remember how adorable Squirt was? Multiply that cuteness factor x5.
Another incredible aspect of this film is the animation, something that just keeps being repeated every time Pixar makes a film. Remember how utterly amazing the landscapes looked in The Good Dinosaur? How every tree, mountain, and river looked like it was filmed by a National Geographic crew? Well Finding Dory’s ocean looks just as incredible. Even the film’s opening short Piper (an immensely enjoyable little tale) utilizes a photo-realistic environment.
In a nutshell:
Not much can be said negatively of this film, other than the last act could’ve used the smallest hint of fine-tuning, and the film ends somewhat abruptly. Also, Sia’s song “Unforgettable” that accompanies the end credits isn’t anywhere near as appropriate in style as Robbie William’s “Beyond the Sea” was in Finding Nemo. But these are mere grievances that are easily forgettable. Finding Dory is a sheer delight from start to finish, infused with well-placed humor, even more loveable characters, a sparkling musical score, and all the TLC that Pixar can spare.