Pixar filmmakers aren’t immune to the idea that all children’s films need morals, they’re just very creative about how they teach it. In 2003 Finding Nemo became a $900 million box-office smash by scolding overprotective parents, encouraging kids to pursue their dreams and gently suggesting that disabilities aren’t the same as limitations. The sequel Finding Dory narrows in on this idea with a story of coping with disability and despair, and then succeeding on your own terms. Writer-director Andrew Stanton and co-director Angus MacLane have delivered a heart-warming masterpiece thirteen years later, encouraging kids to believe in themselves.
We’re all familiar with Finding Nemo’s transoceanic voyage and the Pacific regal blue tang with severe memory disillusions, but Finding Dory digs deeper into her vulnerabilities when random associations trigger memories of her lost parents. Dory frantically attempts to reunite with her missing kin, fuelling her determination with forgotten memories of her childhood. She doesn’t remember her parents, or how she lost them, but piece by piece, her past slowly starts to come together. Dory, Marlin and Nemo encounter many comical characters during their pursuit of Dory’s parents, including break out star Hank, a cranky seven-limbed octopus who is naturally a master of camouflage. Dory’s journey is so action-packed, we hardly pause to breathe throughout it.
Given the looseness of the plot- a one-thing-leads-to-another quest periodically backtracking in circles, the weight of the story lies heavily on the characters rather than plot development. As most sequels go, this film is filled with hilarious one-liners and lots of hidden empathy, but is perhaps too action-packed for a sequel to its emotionally teeming counterpart. The colourful characters don’t hide the fact that when compared to Finding Nemo, this film is portraying a story less ambitious and less emotionally intense. Ellen DeGeneres is so brilliant as the comic relief, but she often struggles to hit the dramatic notes Dory requires. And Stanton’s script is cleverly built around flashbacks, but the frantic back and forth action rarely integrates organically with the rest of the story. Nonetheless, Finding Dory is visually stunning and you’ll most likely be laughing way too much to think about the plot – this film is seriously funny!
So although Finding Dory doesn’t quite manage to reach the heights of Finding Nemo, it is a lovely experience for those riding the Pacific Ocean currents for the first time, and a nice nostalgic for those of us returning. The post-end credits epilogue is amusing enough to stick around for, and the six-minute Pixar short Piper is entirely charming – animated with an exceptional degree of photo-realism. Finding Dory is definitely worth the nine dollar ticket and an entertaining flick I would gladly watch again in the near future.