Finding Dory- Movie Review
“Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming”. These words have stuck with me since I was nine years old. It’s the kind of song that you can’t get out of your head, no matter how hard you try. It’s the kind of song you need by your side when things get rough, a simple message that says it’s best to keep moving forward no matter what obstacles you may face. This lesson resonated in Finding Nemo (2003), as we watched a protective father travel far and wide to rescue his only son. Finding Dory closely follows in the footsteps of its predecessor, exploring themes of endurance and the importance of family but through a different perspective.
It’s been several months since Marlin the clownfish (Albert Brooks) and his amnesiac sidekick Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) spanned the ocean to find Nemo (Hayden Rolence). The three of them are now living peacefully on the coral reef, sure that their seafaring days are over. But suddenly, Dory is overwhelmed with memories she thought she’d long forgotten. Fragments of her childhood begin to surface, and she’s determined to reunite with her parents (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy) in California. Marlin and Nemo tag along as Dory embarks on a quest to find her family. Along the way, they encounter old friends and meet new ones, such as a whale shark named Destiny (Kaitlin Olson) and a beluga named Bailey (Ty Burrell).
Disney doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to sequels. Follow-ups to classic films like Cinderella and The Lion King are straight-to-DVD quality, and theatrical releases likes Cars 2 and Monster’s University were either negatively received or deemed underwhelming compared to the first. So I was apprehensive about Finding Dory. I was afraid the story would follow the same exact beats as the first, and there was a chance that the filmmakers would rely on the presence of memorable characters such as Crush the turtle or Bruce the shark. As the movie began, it looked like it was going in that direction. Though as the film quickly picked up the pace, it was clear that it was heading down a different path.
The most unique aspect of the film is the fact that there is no true villain. There isn’t an evil fish swimming around who wants to keep Dory from finding her parents. Writer and director Andrew Stanton understands that the ocean is both serene and antagonistic. The aquatic world is colorful and beautifully mysterious, but it’s also large and potentially dangerous. So seeing how the characters maneuver through uncharted waters and encounter various creatures is both fascinating and exciting. The ocean’s dark and chaotic nature was more prevalent in the original, but it’s still hinted at here.
Each of the characters, both new and returning, has plenty of heart and humor. Ellen DeGeneres is Dory. She was made to voice this character. She brings naivety, heartfelt emotion, and cheerful optimism to this forgettable fish, and her voice melds perfectly with the character. At first I was worried that she wouldn’t be able to carry the movie by herself, and that her short-term memory loss would get annoying after a while. Thankfully, neither of those apprehensions came true. Marlin and Nemo are also well-realized, and it was fun to watch the father and son work as a team. Destiny, Bailey, and a grumpy octopus named Hank (Ed O’Neill) are all funny and likable additions.
The film moves quickly without a dull moment. The story does drag a bit in the middle, at a point when the trio gets separated. The film switches between their perspectives and what each of them is doing. Again, there aren’t boring moments, but some parts are more entertaining than others. While the overall story is strong and rich in emotion, it isn’t as powerful as I think it could’ve been. There’s definitely a spark, but it could’ve had more of a punch.
Finding Dory isn’t Pixar’s strongest work, but it stands on its own as a very good family film. It revisits certain elements from Finding Nemo, but doesn’t rely on them for the majority of humor or heart. It instead has its own charming surprises, and its own story that explores the inner working of who was once a more secondary character. I still think the original film is superior, but Finding Dory comes very close to being something special.
Cosmic Grade: 3.8/ 5 Stars