There’s an unwritten rule that any Pixar sequel (aside from the Toy Story films, where the magic never seems to wain) is destined to be judged a bit of a dud, but I think that’s a bit unfair. Even if you count Cars 2, the company’s track record is strong beyond belief, and Finding Dory is a fantastic example of this. A sequel to the 2003 hit Finding Nemo, this film features all of the Pixar hallmarks – it’s fun and funny, visually triumphant and incredibly creative, and it’s packed full of heart. Finding Dory will delight adults and children alike, and it’s guaranteed to be one that’ll last.
Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) is a wide-eyed blue tang fish who suffers from short-term memory loss, but she knows that somehow, as a child, she was separated from her parents. When she starts to remember her childhood, she decides to find her family and embarks on an epic adventure with her friends Nemo and Marlin (Albert Brooks). Her journey brings her to the Marine Life Institute in Californa, a conservatory that houses diverse ocean species. She now knows that her family reunion will only happen if she can save her parents from captivity and, with the help of a grouchy octopus named Hank (Ed O’Neill), she sets out to free them. Things soon take an unexpected turn, and Dory learns the true meaning of home.
Seeing as Finding Nemo is so beloved a film, there was pressure on Finding Dory to deliver – it would have been so easy for Pixar to just cash in, but they have crafted a film that stands with their best. As is Pixar tradition, it kicks off with a short film – Piper is the tale of a baby sandpiper’s first journey outside its coastal nest. In six minutes, it is cute and funny, and all-too relatable (as well as stunningly realistic), and it warrants the ticket price alone.
Finding Dory is as visually stunning as this short and, although we’ve seen this world before, they have found a way to offer completely new perspectives on it. Taking the tale to a different location out of the ocean means we have a whole new bunch of characters to enjoy, and the movie wisely gets here quickly and spends most of its time here (the early scenes do feel a bit like a retread of the original’s plot beats – the monster chase sequence, for example – and they are fun, but it is good the movie rapidly heads into new ground).
Half of the strength of a Pixar movie is in its characters and its actors, and Finding Dory does not disappoint. Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks reprise their roles from the first film, and they bring the same back-and-forth that was a highlight of that movie – however, it is the new additions that really steal the show (including a surreal cameo from Sigourney Weaver). Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy bring the emotion as Dory’s parents, and Idris Elba and Dominic West engage in the strangest Wire reunion ever as a pair of sea lions.
The true standout is Ed O’Neill, whose wily and grouchy octopus (or septopus – he’s missing an arm) steals most of the scenes. He is funny and emotive, and technically brilliant (I’ve read that he was the most tricky-to-animate character ever, and his spectacular movements are a testament to the skill of the animators). He is a joy throughout, and his presence drives some of the stunts (if you will) towards the end (I shan’t ruin them, as the pleasure will be all the greater).
We should also play homage to the music – both Thomas Newman’s excellent score, which calls the original to mind whilst definitely becoming its own, getting to explore some new territory as well (there are points when the movie gets to feel almost like a heist movie), and Sia’s theme song, a beautiful rendition of Nat King Cole’s ‘Unforgettable’ that is well worth seeking out.
As with all Pixar films, there is also a message and, in this case, it is about disability and how it needn’t hold you back – how difference doesn’t matter and what some may call impairments can be better understood as strengths. Again, it is as natural and as insightful as anything the studio have offered. It also aims to tug the heartstrings, and it does this well too – it doesn’t reach the heights of its own films, but what could be as emotionally devastating as the start of Up, for example?
In Finding Dory, we have an example of Pixar on-form, and it really is a treat for the viewer. If you really wanted to be picky, you could say that it isn’t the most original film in the world, but it is so packed of humour, charm and warmth, why would you? This is not one to forget, and you certainly won’t after you’ve seen it.
Director: Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane
Cast: Elen DeGeneres (Dory), Albert Brooks (Marlin), Ed O’Neill (Hank), Kaitlin Olson (Destiny), Hayden Rolence (Nemo), Ty Burrell (Bailey)
Running Time: 97 Mins