More than any other film in the history of Pixar, the new sequel Finding Dory has a tremendous amount of pressure to live up to all the expectations of those who adored and continue to love Finding Nemo. Adding to the large amount of anticipation is the fermentation of that expectation for well over a decade has passed since Marlon, Dory and Nemo were introduced to us, thirteen years if you want to be exact. Let’s put that into context. There are kids who we’re born the year Finding Nemo was released who are now entering their teen years as the sequel is coming to theatres everywhere. That is enough to make this movie reviewer feel incredibly old, how about you?
So, how do you bring another story out of these characters that won’t feel like a carbon copy of the first movie? The first couple of trailers for this made me incredibly worried, especially given my rehash issues with the latest Star Wars movie. The final trailer really turned my opinion around going into the film and restored my faith in Pixar, as I was a bit underwhelmed by Inside Out last year and The Good Dinosaur was good, not great. With Ellen Degeneres and Albert Brooks, the pieces were in place for another good showing from the powerhouse animation company that is undeniably the most dominant in that field.
Finding Dory starts off by giving you a bit of insight into Dory’s childhood with her parents, voiced by Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton. Trying to educate Dory, keeping her short term memory problem in mind, her parents try to set her up with the ingrained knowledge of how to get home. We are then shown a child Dory all alone and by herself, unable to remember where her family is or even who they are. We see Dory grow into the Dory we, the audience, know as she collides with Marlon to begin the adventure we see in Finding Nemo.
We then go a year after those events to see Dory now living on the reef with Marlon and Nemo when something triggers her memory, flooding her mind with images of her long forgotten parents. This propels Dory to go on a headstrong journey of her own with her two clownfish friends in tow. Together, they make their way to one of the only things Dory can remember at first, the jewel of Morro Bay, California, the Monterey Marine Life Institute. Believing this to be the place where Dory can reconnect with her family, she goes blindly into the mouth of danger and all hell breaks loose for our main characters.
When I look at all the comments about this film now appearing on Rotten Tomatoes and across the internet, they all seem to say the same thing, did we really need a Finding Nemo sequel? Usually, I would say let the film be stand alone but, while we might not “need” a follow up, even this far removed in time from the original, Finding Dory manages to make itself relevant with one simple fact. We never knew anything about Dory in the first film. Marlon, as I stated above, literally runs into Dory in the beginning of the first movie and we’re off on our adventure. We don’t know where Dory came from at all and it’s a question that may be that plot thread that you wanted to tug on a little. It’s not the completely unnecessary money grab that others perceive it to be.
Degeneres and Brooks slide back into their roles as Dory and Marlon, like a familiar pair of comfortable shoes. This has to be a nice homecoming for Ellen, seeing that the first film reminded people that she is one of the funniest people alive and refocused the spotlight on her. With our returning characters comes a new batch of future favorites including two Modern Family stars, with Ed O’Neill playing Hank, a cantankerous octopus missing a tentacle, and Ty Burrell as Bailey, a beluga whale who can’t figure out his sonar. The definite highlights of the film for me were Caitlin Olson as a pretty much blind whale shark and Idris Elba and Dominic Cooper as two seals occupying a rock outside the Marine Institute, who, in a way, continue that seagull “mine” recurring joke in their own sort of style. Pixar continues their success with adding even more endearing characters for the audience to love.
Will Finding Dory satisfy those who have been waiting years upon years for this sequel to come? I think it definitely will put smiles on faces but I think it lacks a little of what made the first film such a hit. This is probably attributed to the simple reality of not being able to catch lightning in a bottle twice. Expectations are really high, due to the ravenous love for these characters and, while the “no limit” attitude that is usually paired with this kind of hype almost always leads to crushing defeat, I feel you can still leave Finding Dory with a smile on your face and a want to rehash some of the funnier parts with family and friends.
I also must rave about the short that precedes Finding Dory, a new Pixar original called Piper, that follows a young bird trying to get the hang of hunting for clams on the shoreline. The animation is so gorgeous and lifelike that I almost felt like I was going to hear narration from David Attenborough. I think the audience looks forward to these Pixar shorts just as much as the film itself and Piper delivers exactly what you want with a close proximity to the feature film to follow. As a family film experience, Finding Dory is nothing but a satisfying experience that will delight viewers of all ages, although I think we should be done for sequels in this franchise now. I give it a four and a half out of five.