Director: Andrew Stanton
Starring: (voices of) Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Idris Elba, Dominic West
Run Time: 103 mins
‘Finding Dory’ is the long-awaited sequel to 2003’s masterpiece that was ‘Finding Nemo’ that resonated with critics and audiences alike and is generally ranked as one of Pixar’s best films. Pixar have been under fire for concentrating on sequels and not focusing on original films as much, which is displayed by their track record for sequels. Other than the ‘Toy Story’ trilogy, Pixar sequels haven’t been as strong critically compared to their original films, but due to brand recognition have earned a lot of money at the box office. Now I personally liked ‘Cars 2’ and ‘Monsters University’ very much and didn’t find there to be a dip in quality, instead finding them both to be charming films but I can understand the argument and why people might be a little trepidatious. Returning to direct this film is Andrew Stanton who had hoped to break free of the animation genre but was responsible for the box-office bomb that was ‘John Carter’ so he is back to doing what he does best. Most of the original voice cast return but this time, Dory, voiced once again by Ellen DeGeneres, takes centre stage and this film is about her trying to reunite with her parents in conjunction with Marlin and Nemo. It’s taken 13 years for this film to come to fruition so here’s hoping it was all worth it.
‘Finding Dory’ is an endlessly entertaining sequel that is peppered with clever humour and it’s also a rather poignant film that explores some very thought-provoking themes. It’s not quite as good as ‘Finding Nemo’, but it doesn’t simply retread the same narrative again instead choosing to tackle some different themes. The animation, in true Pixar fashion, is stunning and the film manages to successfully introduce and develop new characters that I am sure audiences will come to love.
In pure Pixar fashion, ‘Finding Dory’ tests the emotions very early on in the film and the first 5 minutes of the film which details Dory’s childhood is beautifully realised and captivating – I was almost on the verge of shedding tears. It tackles the themes of family and disability head-on and it is wonderful to see Dory’s character develop as she grows in confidence so that she can live and interact with others despite suffering with short-term memory loss. There are many other outstanding sequences throughout the film and the rest of the story takes place in the Marine Life Institute where Dory meets like-minded individuals who also have their own difficulties, a short-sighted whale shark named Destiny and a beluga whale named Bailey who following a concussion has temporarily lost the ability to echolocate. Originally, the film was to be set in a Sea World-like location but after Pixar executives watched a documentary called ‘Blackfish’ which details the dangers of keeping orca whales in captivity, they decided to revise the ending which is why the film got delayed and last year’s, ‘The Good Dinosaur’ took this film’s slot so that the film could be reworked. This would have been a controversial choice should they have wished to have proceeded with the original story and whilst that could have been more emotional, Pixar have opted for the crowd-pleaser option so not to stir any controversy.
The characters, both old and new that ‘Finding Dory’ involves are wonderfully realised and developed and by the end of the film, these characters are and will most definitely amongst audiences, be associated with this material. The standout is Hank, an octopus who has lost a tentacle (who Dory refers to as a ‘septopus’) who Dory encounters in Quarantine early on in the film and he is voiced by Ed O’Neill who is endlessly charismatic and lovable and he steals the show. The combination of Idris Elba and Dominic West as two sea lions, Fluke and Rudder, are also given some great lines in the script and are easy to connect to. Elba has starred in 3 of the Top 5 highest grossing films of the year so far by Disney – this, ‘Zootopia’ and ‘The Jungle Book’ and is loosely connected to ‘Captain America: Civil War’ as he plays Heimdall in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so perhaps he is a good luck charm for Disney? Regardless in the three films that he has been, he’s stolen the show in all of them which is testament to his ability to excel in voice roles. Of the old characters, Ellen DeGeneres, of course excels again this time in the titular role and Albert Brooks is also very strong as Marlin – it’s a shame he doesn’t act more often.
Thomas Newman’s score also manages to distinguish itself from ‘Finding Nemo’ which he also scored and here the score is much more subdued and it is one of the best works he has done recently.
Overall, ‘Finding Dory’ is an absolute delight from its start to finish and is another winner from Pixar. It’s refreshing to see a sequel that doesn’t rehash its predecessor and ‘Finding Dory’ manages to be a film that stands up in its own right. The character development is fantastic here and the film is suitably full of heart like the majority of Pixar’s films are. Hopefully, director Andrew Stanton will continue to find success in this genre as 3 out of his 4 films have been for Pixar and they’ve all been strong (Wall-E less so) but if he does try and have another crack at a live-action film, I would be happy to watch it as he still is able to handle characters and script very well – it’s just a shame that ‘John Carter’ turned out the way it did. But otherwise, ‘Finding Dory’ is another win for Pixar and Disney and is another exemplary animation film in a genre that keeps on going from strength to strength.
The short film that precedes ‘Finding Dory’, ‘Piper’ is also wonderful and it is some of the most realistic animation that I have ever seen and the attention to detail is sublime. It is a little thin on story compared to some other shorts that Pixar have done, but it’s still very impressive.