THE STORY – Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) is a wide-eyed, blue tang fish who suffers from memory loss every 10 seconds or so. The one thing she can remember is that she somehow became separated from her parents as a child. With help from her friends Nemo and Marlin, Dory embarks on an epic adventure to find them. Her journey brings her to the Marine Life Institute, a conservatory that houses diverse ocean species. Dory now knows that her family reunion will only happen if she can save mom and dad from captivity.
THE CAST – Ellen Degeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Ed O’Neil, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton & Eugene Levy
THE TEAM – Andrew Stanton (Director/Writer) & Victoria Strouse (Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 103 Minutes
By Matt N.
13 years ago Disney/Pixar released their most successful film yet in “Finding Nemo.” The story of a clown fish swimming across the ocean to find and rescue his son touched the hearts of millions around the world and now, 13 years later we get the sequel in “Finding Dory.” One has to wonder why it took so long for a sequel to come out and now that it has, should we care? The answer is a resounding yes as the wizards at Pixar manage to create a worthy enough sequel, that despite not meeting the standard set by its predecessor, still manages to touch our hearts, make us laugh and gaze in wonder.
Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) is a blue tang fish who suffers from short term memory loss. Which she’ll have no problem telling every other fish she meets in the ocean. However, she remembers that she once had a mother and father who loved her dearly despite her mental condition. After her adventures with Marlin (Albert Brooks) and his son Nemo (Hayden Rolance) from “Finding Nemo,” Dory is longing for her own family. Upon setting out on her quest to find her parents, she gets accidentally captured and sent to the Marine Life Institute where fish are stored and fixed then transported elsewhere. She believes her parents to be here and needs the help of her friends (old and new) to find them again.
Regulated to being a side character for comedic relief in the first film, Dory is front and center in “Finding Dory.” As such, this animated sequel touches upon a poignant theme that was barely (If not at all) hinted at in the first film: mental illness and its effect on people’s loved ones. It’s a thought-provoking theme that fulfills adult audience member’s thirst for exciting subtext within Pixar’s stories. Dory is shown as a burden and an annoyance to everyone around her. But much like how the first film dealt with the undying love a father has for his son and how far he will go for his child, “Finding Dory” reminds us of the undying love we have for those less fortunate than us when it comes to mental disabilities. There are many times throughout the movie where the question of whether or not Dory is capable of living a normal life like the rest of the fish within the ocean is brought up and it’s utterly heartbreaking to see a good soul trapped and lost.
Ellen Degeneres manages to bring the same life, charm, and erratic behavior to the forgetful fish, while Albert Brooks also returns as the worrying clown fish Marlin. Nemo this time around is voiced by Hayden Rolance, but manages to sound uncannily like Alexander Gould from the first film. The old and familiar characters (Not to mention familiar music cues by Thomas Newman) set the audience into a sense of ease and warmth in seeing this world return back to the big screen. But I am pleased to say that the new characters in “Finding Dory” help to liven up the film and not give it the same feel as the last. Ed O’Neil who plays the septopus (Because he’s an octopus who has lost a tentacle) Hank is clearly the standout not just in the voice acting department, but in the animation department as well. Kaitlin Olson is lively and hysterical as the near-sighted whale shark, Destiny. And Ty Burrell compliments her as the beluga whale, Bailey. Bill Hader, Idris Elba and (Most hystercially in an ongoing joke throughout the movie) Sigourney Weaver all provide their talents to help make “Finding Dory” the pleasure that it is.
So are there any flaws in “Finding Dory?” While it’s admirable that the film lacks a central main villain to tell its story, there is always a feeling that “Finding Dory” could’ve been something more than what it is. It’s a stunningly animated, well-voiced film, with an underlying message about mental illness and the familial love that (should) come with it. However, the film lacks the same scope as “Finding Nemo” where Marlin’s journey was both literally and figuratively epic. Dory’s quest to find her parents is personally a huge deal to her and to those around her who want to see her succeed and get back the love she needs for someone with her condition. However, the stakes never feel incredibly high and the journey never as grandiose as the original.
“Finding Dory” is brilliant in many areas but lacks the spark which made the film “Finding Nemo” a classic. The sequel compliments the first film incredibly well, tying Dory’s history before the events of the first film with the second (Including some flashbacks to her time with her parents that are so unbearably cute it hurts). However, it’s clear that the film most likely struggled in the storytelling department as the film took 13 years to come into existence and one wonders why we needed the sequel in the first place. It may feel nice to be back with these beloved characters again and unlike Dory, we won’t forget them anytime soon. But ask yourself, 13 years from now, which of these two films will be held in higher regard? “Finding Dory” is not a bad film by any means. It just has trouble living up to the nearly impossible expectations set by the first film. Suffice to say, I’m surprised and delighted that it managed to get as close as it does.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Ellen Degeneres carries the film on her voice acting talent. Beautiful animation.
THE BAD – Can’t measure up to the story nor the feeling of “Finding Nemo.”