Pixar have established themselves as the greatest animation studio in Hollywood right now. They are beloved by critics and audiences alike but they have never been able to harness they talent to become consistent. One moment they release a showstopping film like Inside Out and the next they’re offering the forgettable Good Dinosaur. For every Toy Story 3 there is a Brave to follow. Pixar have managed to create some of the greatest animated films of all time but they have also been responsible for some truly shitty ones. Plus, they don’t really have a great track record with sequels. They constantly churn out follow-ups to their big films but they have generally had trouble meeting the expectations set by the first. There is the odd occasion in which the second film will be better , Toy Story 2, but for every success there is a Cars 2. So the announcement back in 2012 that there would be a sequel to the fucking awesome Finding Nemo it was a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, we all wanted to see what was happening to our favourite characters yet we didn’t want our love of the original to be put in jeopardy thanks to an underwhelming sequel. I guess that fear is the main reason it took me so bloody long to get round to seeing it.
It’s been 13 years since Finding Nemo came out. Every time I hear that I have to take a second to collect my thoughts and stop freaking the fuck out. It’s been so long and I think it’s safe to say that nobody expected there to be a sequel at this point. I doubt many people actually really wanted one. The story was a great one that came to a satisfying conclusion. We didn’t need anymore and, if people were craving more from Nemo, Dory and Marlin, then they could just rewatch the animated classic. However, as of 2012, director Andrew Stanton decided that Dory’s story hadn’t finished so he wrote Finding Dory. A sequel that owes enough to it’s predecessor whilst being a separate film in its own right. A film that was created to be enjoyed by those who have watched and rewatched the first film but still accessible to those youngsters meeting our fishy friends for the first time.
The film delves into Dory’s (Ellen DeGeneres) past from the off where we see her much younger self struggling with her short-term memory problems with the help of her living parents (Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton). As well all know from the first film, that happiness is short lived as Dory manages to lose her family and end up wandering the sea with no idea of where she came from. Until she bumps into a frantic clownfish searching for his lost son. Cut to a year after the events of Finding Nemo where Dory has settled into family life with her new friends. Everything is going swimmingly until she begins to remember snippets from her past. Forcing the trio to go on an international adventure to find her parents.
The journey takes the trio to California and the Marine Life Institute. Dory is captured by some marine biologists and sent to Institute’s quarantine area. There she meets her new travelling buddy Hank (Ed O’Neill), a gruff octopus who is trying to prevent his release back into the ocean. The two work their way around the park to get Dory to the home she once knew with the help of the quirky residents. Meanwhile, Nemo (Hayden Rolence) and Marlin (Albert Brooks) make their own way into the park and attempt to reconvene with Dory. To be honest, the narrative is essentially a rewrite of the first one where the three main characters are kept apart for as long as possible before being dramatically reunited in an emotional climax. Still, that is forgivable because of the extra elements necessary to allow a character with memory loss to head the film. There is an added element of mystery embedded in the plot as we discover who Dory is as she does. We end up compiling an image of her past with every flashback before we finally find out the whole sad story. It’s like fucking Memento for kids.
After all, Finding Dory is a terribly sad tale. We see a lost and lonely fish desperately try and get back to the family whilst being held-back by a condition that has hindered her life since childhood. We see as she finally gains the confidence to see past her difficulties and make her own way. It’s a weird but lovely take on how life with a disability doesn’t have to hold you back and you can be strong enough to overcome everything. Even more than the first film, Finding Dory is a sentimental, thought-provoking and emotional film. It will create just as many tears as it will laughs and that’s what makes it so great. It is a very human film hidden in a beautiful under-sea world.
We all know that Pixar are on comfortable ground when it comes to the animation side of things and it cannot be denied that the film is visually stunning. However, they are also able to create incredible characters. Every single character added to the returning faces are spectacular. The stand-out, of course, it Ed O’Neill’s Hank. A character who not only epitomises the studio’s animation prowess (I cannot get over that scene where the octopus is introduced) but their talent for writing very real and lovable characters. Hank may be crabby but, through his narrative journey, it is impossible not to fall in love with him. His fellow inmates of the MLI are equally as wonderful. My personal favourites are, of course, Ty Burrell as a beluga whale who has lost faith in his echolocation abilities and Kaitlin Olson as a near-sighted whale shark.
Finding Dory is a film that may lack in originality but is overflowing with enough charm, heart and silliness to prove that it doesn’t matter. It may not be the sequel we needed but it is the ideal one. People will constantly argue about which of the films is better but really it doesn’t matter. It is overflowing with memorable characters that you will love forever. Plus, those fucking otters are OTTERLY adorable.