Director: Andrew Stanton
Voice cast: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Idris Elba, Dominic West
Last year was an odd year for Pixar. After consecutive years of sequels (2013’s Toy Story 3 and 2014’s Monsters University), the animation studio released two original films in the same year – scoring an undeniable high with the emotional Inside Out, but stumbling with the decent but rather unspectacular The Good Dinosaur.
This year, the studio returns with another sequel, this time to one of the pearls in its ocean of past treasures – Finding Nemo.
Finding Dory has a lot to live up to. Released in 2003, Finding Nemo went on to become the highest-grossing animated feature of all time at the time, and was also Pixar’s highest-grossing film ever until Toy Story 3 came along 10 years later.
Numbers aside, Finding Nemo was just a wonderful, wonderful movie. The animation was state of the art, the story was wildly entertaining, the voice cast and script were delightfully funny, and the characters were just so memorable.
One character that stood out, however, was Dory, the forgetful little blue tang voiced so warmly and adorably by Ellen DeGeneres. The movie may have been about Marlin looking for his son Nemo, but without Dory, the search wouldn’t have been quite as fun.
So, 13 years later, it makes sense that the sequel to Finding Nemo would put the focus on its most popular character.
Set one year after the events of the first film, it starts off with a look at Dory’s own past. As it turns out, her short-term memory loss problem (the subject of many a joke in this movie) actually resulted in a much sadder event in her life – it caused her to lose and forget her own parents after being swept away as a little fish.
When her memory is eventually jogged, off she goes on a cross-ocean quest to a marine institute in California to find her parents, Jenny and Charlie (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy), with Nemo (Hayden Rolence) and Marlin (Albert Brooks) in tow, and with the help of a certain ocean-travesing hippie sea turtle (voiced by director Andrew Stanton himself).
Along the way, they meet new friends, including a pair of friendly seals with Cockney accents (Idris Elba and Dominic West), a white beluga whale with a rather useful gift (Ty Burrell), a short-sighted whale shark (Kaitlin Olson), and best of all, a cranky but resourseful octopus named Hank (Ed O’Neill), who just wants his own little glass box to live in where people will feed him all day. Hank is this movie’s best character by far (besides Dory, of course). Oh, and stay on after the credits for a cameo by some old fishy friends as well.
If you liked Finding Nemo, chances are you’ll like Finding Dory as well. Stanton manages to keep the warm and fuzzy tone of the first movie throughout, while adding new elements and character into the mix. There are some parts that are rather incredulous (including a climax that seems to have been taken straight out of Toy Story 2), but for the most part, Finding Dory just keeps swimming on to warmer and warmer waters.
With the exception of Toy Story 2 and 3, Pixar’s other sequels so far have not been great. Monsters University was forgettable, and the less said about Cars 2, the better (I still can’t believe Cars 3 has been greenlit).
Finding Dory, however, works because it keeps the likeable nature of the first movie, gives its standout character the spotlight, adds more memorable characters, and just manages to up the ante in terms of laughs and action without overpowering the overall warmth and charm of the story. Overall, Pixar’s dive back into the underwater world goes swimmingly well.