After receiving plenty of sequels we didn’t need (My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2, The Huntsman, etc.), Disney/Pixar gives us another one we don’t necessarily need: Finding Dory. But luckily, and thankfully, this one actually works. Not to mention, it justifies its existence.
When Finding Nemo came out, I was in kindergarten. Yikes. Now I’m in college, and reflecting on the film years later (I recently watched it yet again),it’s a film that still holds up well. It’s a great film. One that still stuns us visually, while also giving us a story that scares us in reality, while making us laugh all the same. It’s perfect.
Now a whopping 13 years later, we’re given Finding Dory. Back then, Pixar was unstoppable, and like last year’s Inside Out, it’s clear that they can still whip up a great film. But every so often, they make films that miss the mark, such as Cars 2. Don’t lie: you’re rooting for Finding Dory to be more like Toy Story 2 than Cars 2. But Finding Dory is smarter than that film, in that it takes a character that we actually love, Dory (voiced once again to complete perfection by Ellen Degeneres) and builds a story around her.
The film takes place a year after the events of the first film, and honestly, the way this film picks up where it left off is kind of magical. It may have been 13 years, but everything still feels exactly the same. As soon as I heard Thomas Newman’s perfect score, I knew I was home again.
It opens whenever Dory (not voiced by Ellen) is a little girl. Her parents (voiced by Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy) tell her to tell everyone that she has short term memory loss. The film treats Dory this round as a bit of a special needs conduit, and it’s no doubt effective. I can see it hitting close to home with some. Then, by a reason unspecified (until later on), Dory is on her own, frantically searching for her parents… Until she grows up and doesn’t remember them. This leading up to how Marlon (the great Albert Brooks, who once again has great comic timing) and Dory met.
Flash forward past the events of the first film, and Dory is soon reminded of her folks. It is then that she sets off to California (she, conveniently might I add, can remember certain plot details), with Marlon and Nemo at her side. But it’s not smooth sailing: she tracks them down to a Seaworld type place (in which Sigourney Weaver is narrating the whole time. This element is funny for whatever reason), and is soon abducted and taken into quarantine. But she feels like her parents are in there.
In the meanwhile, Marlon and Nemo do what they can to save her. But on Dory’s end of the spectrum, she comes across an octopus names Hank (voiced to perfection by Ed O’Neill), a grouch who promises to help her find her parents in exchange for an orange tag around her fin, which will help him get the hell out of there. She also comes across two whales, voiced by Ty Burrell and Kaitlin Olsen, who aid her. Aiding Marlon and Nemo are two seals, also voiced perfectly by Idris Elba (his third voice this year) and Simon West. They’re hilarious. The new additions are pretty awesome. Not much in the way of development, but they’re great company.
And so it gives me great pleasure to say that Finding Dory works. Very well too if you ask me. It’s a gorgeous, hilarious reminder of what made the first film such a treat.
Directors Andrew Stanton and Angus Maclane take us once again on a gorgeous, fun journey that might not have the greatness of Finding Nemo or some of Pixar’s other amazing films… But that’s a mighty tall order. Thankfully, it is more Toy Story 2 than Cars 2.
The voice work, if I haven’t stressed yet, is perfect. Everyone mentioned above is marvelous and they all have such great comic timing. But this is Degeneres’ show all the way. Like she did the first time around, she’s just as adorable and charming. But this time she adds a bit of depth to this character. We grow to learn that Dory isn’t just looking for her parents, but she’s also looking for herself really. It sounds corny, but it’s completely effective, and she handles it perfectly.
It’s also just great fun, and it’s also one of those rare comedy sequels that doesn’t rely on references to the original. And when it does reference the original, it doesn’t feel phoned it. But I, probably like everyone else, must admit that it’s not quite Finding Nemo. The first film felt a bit more creative and while the story is a decent one, it can feel a little redundant. But I’m not complaining, really. Because this is still one of my favorite films of the year thus far.