In 2003, Pixar released its fifth animated feature. A little movie called Finding Nemo. Following a tiny clownfish called Marlin and a blue tang called Dory, the film chronicled their journey across the ocean, searching for Marlin’s lost son Nemo. It was an unqualified success at the box office, with multiple Oscar nominations. Now, 13 years later, Pixar has released Finding Dory.
Set one year after the first film, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) finds herself having flashbacks to her childhood. After a conversation triggers Dory’s memories, she feels compelled to search for her parents, only vaguely remembering where they lived. Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence), worried about Dory’s safety, accompany her, hoping that they can help Dory reunite with her family.
Now, I never really know what to expect from Pixar when it comes to their follow-up movies, but Finding Dory is the sequel that no-one realised they wanted but, I guarantee, will love every minute of it.
Finding Dory gets so much right in such an effortless manner that it’s easy to overlook the craft that went in to making such a pleasurable viewing experience. From the amazing animation that we have come to expect from Pixar to a stellar script, everything just works. Directors Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane have once again tapped into that special Pixar sauce and created another instant classic.
Be warned though. Pixar isn’t pulling any punches here. From the very opening scene where you meet baby Dory (Sloane Murray) and her parents (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy), your emotions are going to be taken through twists and turns that will have you laughing one minute, and in tears the next. I am always amazed how deftly the film-makers at Pixar manipulate our feelings. They have once again developed a tale that will appeal to both children and adults alike. In between all the pratfalls and slapstick humour, is a story with a lot of heart, highlighting the bond that family has, the struggle of being different from everyone else and the acceptance that comes from seeing things from other people’s perspectives.
But as we know, a great script will only work as well if the cast is up to it. Returning as straight man to Dory’s exuberance is Albert Brooks as Marlin. Still as over-protective and by the book as ever, he does get a few moments to shine but his role along with Nemo isn’t as much in the forefront as in the first film. Adding to the comedy are newcomers Ty Burrell as Bailey the beluga whale and Kaitlin Olson as a nearsighted whale shark. These two brought lots of laughs from the audience while also providing important plot elements to the overarching story, easily slotting in and feeling like that they had been part of the franchise all along. Less important to the story, but still providing great entertainment, were Fluke (Idris Elba) and Rudder (Dominic West), a couple of easy going Californian sea-lions, who live on a flat rock that they are oddly possessive about. Consider them the “mine” seagulls for a new generation.
However the highlight of the film is Dory herself. DeGeneres slips back into the role like 13 years had never passed. Her portrayal of the constantly befuddled blue tang is the lynch-pin of the film, and it’s the type of character that could have easily become grating and annoying, but the performance is so heartfelt and sincere that you can’t help fall in love with Dory all over again. And kudos has to go to Sloane Murray who, as the younger version of Dory, instantly elicited awwwws from the audience whenever she was onscreen. Seriously, it was cuteness overload.
A special mention must also go to Ed O’Neill‘s performance as Hank, an Octopus, who finds himself helping Dory as a means to an end. O’Neill’s naturally gruff and no-nonsense manner than he has perfected in Modern Family is well suited to the neurotic and ill-tempered cephalopod. Hank’s personality a polar opposite to Dory leads to many entertaining interactions between the two, and you could tell that the animators had a lot of fun devising ways of using Hank’s camouflage to disguise himself from one scene to the next.
So what else is there to say? The story is great, the acting is great. The whole film is movie-making done right. In fact the only thing wrong is that you’re reading this review and not out watching this movie.
I thoroughly enjoyed Finding Dory, and it’s a film that I can see myself watching again and again.
I give Finding Dory an 8.5 out of 10.
(PS wait till the end for an end credit scene.)