It’s been a long 13 years since Pixar released the wonderful Finding Nemo. I’ve spoken before about my love for that film, including how it is probably my favourite Pixar production. We are now being brought a sequel, and it’s fair to say the Pixar’s continuations of previous works have been of mixed quality. Whilst the Toy Story sequels were both fantastic, Cars 2 was awful and Monsters University was middling.
But here we are with Finding Dory. And the premise of the film is that Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), the amnesiac blue tang fish from the first film, remembers that she was separated from her parents at a young age and that her meeting with Marlin interrupted her search for them. She then sets of to find them. It’s clearly a pretty similar story to Finding Nemo, and so the film was always going to run the risk of being too similar to its predecessor. Thankfully however Finding Dory brings enough new to the table to warrant being made. Where the first film was built around the relationship between an overprotective father and his son, Dory is built around a character who suffers from a ‘mental disability’ in short term memory loss. This is a story and relation that is handled so well by Pixar, and just like children from ethnic minorities or any other background it is important for children who suffer from mental disabilities to see themselves represented on the big screen, and in Dory here is a celebration of such a person, handled in a really beautiful way.
One of the big reasons that the Finding Nemo was so good was its great cast of characters. The sea is such a great setting for an animated film because you are able to have such a wide variety of different characters. Outside of the main three (Dory, Marlin, and Nemo) the only returning characters once they leave the reef is a brief appearance by the sea turtles Crush and Squirt. Instead we get new characters like Hank the Octopus, Destiny the whale Shark (who is near sighted), Bailey the beluga whale, and Fluke and Rudder a pair of sea lions. They all bring great new dynamics to the story, with Ed O’Neil’s Hank a particular favourite. He’s a grumpy and grouchy octopus and brings a lot of humour to the film, whilst also being a pivotal player in helping Dory’s search. Also Idris Elba’s appearance as Fluke mean this is the third big Disney voice role he’s had in 2016 after appearances in Zootopia and The Jungle Book.
All that said it does hit several story beats from the first. With the overall outline of the film nearly following Nemo exactly. And this lack of originality does hold it back from being the real top tier of Pixar films, where the likes of Nemo, Inside Out and Wall-E exist. Now not being in the top tier of Pixar films is nothing to be ashamed of, this is a far more well-rounded film than Secret Life of Pets earlier this summer, but can’t quite reach the heights of Zootopia at the start of the year (although financially it appears to be blowing all its competition out of the water). I really liked Finding Dory, it’s a great kids film, with plenty for older audiences to enjoy as well, and it has a great message/theme at the heart of it, hitting all the boxes for an animated movie in this golden age of animated films.