Pixar have a bit of a messy record when it comes to sequels to their films. Whilst the Toy Story sequels are incredible films, in many ways better than the first one, Monsters University, despite having some good elements, was a bit of a disappointment and the less said about Cars 2 the better. However, I did have hopes for Finding Dory being good, mainly because of how brilliant Finding Nemo was and the idea of fleshing out Dory, was interesting, and I have to say that it pays off for the most part.The film takes place a year after the events of Finding Nemo with Dory regaining some of her memories about her parents, mainly where she came from, that being in Morro Bay, California. After convincing Marlin and Nemo to help her find her parents, they go to California where Dory ends up being taken to the nearby Marine Life Institute and placed into quarantine. In order to find her parents, Dory enlists the help of Hank, an octopus missing one of his legs, to take her to where she remembers her parents being from in exchange for her quarantine tag, which Hank wants so he can live his life in peace in an aquarium in Cleveland, with Marlin and Nemo following to try and help Dory, after Marlin insulted her earlier in the film. The film is at it’s best when it focuses on Dory and the relationship we see with her parents in flashbacks. The film does a great job at showing the difficulties that Dory faced growing up with her memory issues and the support she receives from her parents was vital to allowing her to live and seeing Dory wandering the ocean alone searching for her parents, eventually forgetting that she was searching for her parents, is up there with some of the most heartbreaking scenes put in a Pixar film. The character development that Dory receives is strong, but it comes at the detriment of character development for the other characters. Marlin seems to take a step back from his arc in Finding Nemo, a lot of his scenes focusing on him having to learn the same lessons he learnt in Finding Nemo. Of the new characters meanwhile, none of them really stand out like the Tank Gang, Nigel the Pelican or the vegetarian sharks did in the first film, the only one that comes close is Hank, his character being a reversal of Gill, an animal that doesn’t want to go to the ocean, is pretty inspired and his grumpy nature is a great balance with Dory’s optimism.
Performance wise, the highlight of the film is Ellen DeGeneres as Dory. The added pathos and depth to the character from the plot is matched brilliantly by DeGeneres, delivering a more subdued performance here than in the first film, whilst still retaining the humour that made the character so likeable in the first film. Albert Brooks meanwhile, despite the character not being written as strongly, still brings some great charm to Marin and Hayden Rolence makes for a good replacement for Alexander Gould as Nemo. Of the new cast, Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy are perfectly cast as Dory’s parents, getting a lot of heartwarming scenes as we see them interact with Dory when she was a kid, their performances having a warm, friendly air. Ed O’Neill as Hank meanwhile is a lot of fun, his grumpy, sardonic nature providing a great contrast to DeGeneres and the tone of his voice throughout the film says a lot about the life of Hank, better than any piece of dialogue could. Whilst they don’t get much to do, Idris Elba and Dominic West are fun to listen to as the sea lions Fluke and Rudder, whilst Kaitlin Olson and Ty Burrell are solid as Whale Shark Destiny and Beluga Whale Bailey respectively, their characters tying in to the whole living with disability theme that has been present in both of the films.
Animation wise, this continues the strong work that Pixar has always held. By taking place in a Marine Life Institute, an area that is mostly man-made and dry, the animators have a lot of fun in showing how Dory, Marlin and Nemo navigate around the area without suffocating and this new setting helps give the film a fresh feel that some of the other Pixar sequels have lacked. In terms of character animation, the standout is easily the animation for Hank, the movement of each of his legs and how he navigates the institute, camouflaging himself to hide from the institute staff is brilliantly handled. Once again, like in the first film, the animation for the ocean, in the brief scenes we see of it, is excellent, the lighting effects in particularly being vastly improved since the original film.
Overall, Finding Dory, whilst not living up to the quality of the first film, is still an enjoyable sequel, with solid humour and excellent animation but the film really shines in the dramatic portions, the scenes focusing on Dory’s search for her parents and her life prior to meeting Marlin being perfectly done and are up there with some of the best work that Pixar has done, even if the rest of the film doesn’t quite live up to these elements.
My Rating: 4/5