Synopsis – The friendly-but-forgetful blue tang fish reunites with her loved ones, and everyone learns a few things about the real meaning of family along the way.
My Take – I’m not sure how many people really wanted a sequel to Finding Nemo, I know I didn’t. The talking clown fish film was a huge success for Pixar when it was released in 2003. As well as winning the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and a whole list of other awards and nominations, the movie became the second biggest film of 2003, taking over $936 million at the global box office. The animation and the unique storytelling of the film played big factors in its success. Honestly, I always thought Pixar had done better later on. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate Finding Nemo, I just found it a bit too silly for my taste and firmly believe the winning combo of Disney-Pixar got better with their productions after this success. Keeping that mind, I didn’t expect much from this one. Adding to my worries where the rumors of Ellen DeGeneres (the voice of Dory) forcing this sequel in order to cash in on her brand followed by Disney-Pixar’s ill fated trend of bad sequels, not counting the Toy Story films, like Cars 2 & Monsters University. Luckily for me all my apprehensions were wrong as this is not only one of the best films of the year but may also be one of Disney – Pixar’s best films of the last decade. Ignoring the thirteen years gap between both films, the story follows Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) a year after the events of the first film. Dory is very much content spending her days in the reef with her new family Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence). That is until a field trip with Mr. Ray (Bob Peterson) triggers lost memories of her parents and a vague hint of where she came from: The Jewel of Morro Bay, California.
After convincing a hesitant Marlin, the gang sets out on another grand aquatic trek to locate her missing parents. Upon arriving to the location, a distracted Dory gets lured into to the Morro Bay, which turns out to be a marine life institute / park, by the soothing voice of Sigourney Weaver (voicing herself) and is captured and taken into the institute, which leaves Marlin and Nemo trying to get in to find their friend. While Dory teams up with resident escapee Hank the Octopus (Ed O’Neill) to finish what she came for. Unlike the first movie, which was an epic road trip across the ocean to get to Sydney, this film gets the trekking part out of the way in the first 20 minutes or so, and we quickly wind up at the final destination at The Jewel of Morro Bay, where most of the movie takes place. Once inside, the movie kicks into higher gear as Dory and Hank make their way through the park guided by locations and events that trigger memories, constantly answering questions and replacing them with new ones. It’s a little surprising at the fist to see Marlin and Nemo take a backseat in this movie and being delegated to supporting characters who have very little more to do but set up gags and get from one point to another. But when you realize they have no real story arcs to conquer, it doesn’t seem like a bad thing anymore, because let’s not forget that this movie is all about Dory and the search for her parents. Just like the earlier one, the film is a hilarious and thrilling ride that blends adventure, comedy, prison break, highway pursuit and much more all into one, all with a very Pixar-y emotional core. But what makes this film stand out is its maturity in the story telling. Just like last year’s Inside Out, this film is another dark take into one’s psyche. The film deals with real life questions such as dissolved personalities, losing hope and standing up for one self when the time is right. Hank the octopus who is actually a septopus, as Dory points out, since he only has 7 limbs, fears for going into the sea after spending a good amount of time in the aquarium, a perfect example of how most of us are afraid to go back to something which we tested and failed, but in life everything is not about success but the effort we give in to try and overcome our failures. If Finding Nemo was quite literally about finding a person, this one is more about the titular character’s internal search of who she is and where she came from. Finding Nemo was rooted in director Andrew Stanton’s childhood memories, his personal experiences as a father and how he struggled with being overprotective of his own son. From what I can tell, Stanton doesn’t suffer from short-term memory loss, and while this less personal touch can be felt, he has once again proven to be a great storyteller and has crafted a satisfying and dynamic experience with co-director Angus MacLane, whose particular sense of comedy shines throughout the entire movie.
Its good to see Stanton back in from of after the debacle of the live action John Carter. The quest allowed director Andrew Stanton to retread a few of the most popular Finding Nemo setpieces and the general story arc of a couple humble fish on an impossible mission across an entire ocean to find their loved ones. Of course, the fact that Marlin and Dory succeeded against impractical odds once before doesn’t leave much room for suspense this time around, but Stanton effectively stacks the deck against his protagonists by separating Dory and Marlin and then following them on parallel paths through its run time. Even by the standards of a talking fish movie, some of the leaps (like literally, these fish jump around a lot) needed to get the characters from one sequence to the next are pretty absurd. They’re also a lot of fun. Idris Elba and Dominic West’s Fluke and Rudder are hilarious additions, and O’Neill’s cantankerous “septopus” steals scene after scene with his inventive disguises and dexterity. All of this is dependent in no small part to the performance of Ellen DeGeneres, who again imbues Dory with her sense of decency and joy, all the while hinting at the doubts she feels inside. Enough cannot be said about Albert Brooks. With Finding Nemo, Stanton built one of Pixar’s most vivid and detailed worlds, and the best parts of the film afford him the opportunity to fill that world out even further. Of course with the thirteen years in between and thanks to technological advancements the animation is way more refined & marvelous. On the whole, ‘Finding Dory’ is a rare sequel that surpasses the original by mixing Pixar’s best blend of emotions, heart and laughs.
Rated – PG
Run Time – 103 minutes