Finding Dory (2016)
D: Andrew Stanton. W: Andrew Stanton & Victoria Strouse. Starring the voice talents of: Ellen DeGeneres/Albert Brooks/Ed O’Neill/Hayden Rolance/Idris Elba/Kaitlin Olsen/Ty Burrell/Diane Keaton/Eugene Levy/Dominic West.
Such a highly anticipated sequel like Disney and Pixar’s Finding Dory has a huge mountain to climb. Like its younger siblings, the Toy Story trilogy, the film is targeting a huge established Finding Nemo fan base while also attempting to bring in younger audiences that might not have seen the 2003 film. Rare is a sequel that is nearly 13 years later and Finding Dory is just good enough.
Structured with intersecting flashbacks of Dory’s childhood, Finding Dory picks up a year after the end of Finding Nemo. Blue tang fish Dory (voiced again by Ellen DeGeneres) is living in the reef with Marlon (voiced again by Albert Brooks) and little Nemo (Hayden Rolance). Still suffering from short term memory loss, Dory’s memories of her parents are triggered. Eager to find them she sets out with her pair of clown fish to figure out where they are. Like any other road movie, including its predecessor, along the way the trio get separated and meet various other marine life friends in their underwater and out of water adventure.
The spirit of the film is certainly DeGeneres’ voice. In Finding Nemo Dory provided the comic relief for much of the narrative and helped the emotional range of the father/son reunion. Here her memory loss is given serious tones and the humor is outsourced to other characters. Yet DeGeneres’ clear practical delivery gives Dory a tenacity that is not weighed down with sentimentality. She shines when played against desperate octopus Hank (voice of Ed O’Neill) who scoops Dory into a coffee pot to help with his own agenda. He nearly steals their sequences together with his big eyes and chameleon like changing colors and shapes.
Composer Thomas Newman scores the movie with a deft hand, the music never taking away from the visual pleasure of the underwater. He also composed for Wall-E along with an impressive list of live action features. Louis Armstrong’s ‘What A Wonderful World’ is cleverly used and re-energizes the third act. Animation wise the ocean world cannot impress like in Finding Nemo simply because it is not new. Unlike last years The Good Dinosaur that relied too heavily on animated details to awe. The film also lacks a specific physical threat from within the ocean, but the human element of moving aquatic life around is enough to keep the momentum of the story moving forward.
Additionally, the Pixar short prior to the film, Piper, is a must see. How such emotionality can be given to a short without any dialogue is the impressive element of this company’s creative work. Ultimately, there is not anything specifically lacking about Finding Dory. It is enjoyable, charming, and hits the right adult metaphors and emotional ranges like this year’s Zootopia. Yet it did not overwhelm me like Inside Out or Toy Story 3 or its predecessor. Maybe it has been too long since the first film? Or the narrative was just too similar? Either way Finding Dory is a worthwhile sequel and proves how difficult that task can be.