Finding Dory, 2016.
Directed by Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane.
Featuring the voice talents of Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olsen, Ty Burrell, Hayden Rolence, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Idris Elba, Dominic West, Bob Peterson, Kate McKinnon, Sloane Murray, Bill Hader, Sigourney Weaver, Brad Garrett, Allison Janney, Vicki Lewis, Austin Pendleton, Stephen Root, and Willem Dafoe.
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.
Pixar Animation has always made feature films that cater to adults just as much as they do children, but in the past decade or so, the studio has really been maturing beyond probably their own expectations as to the meaningful and emotional stories that they can tell with their impressive childlike imagination. Dory was for all intents and purposes a supporting character in Finding Nemo, with her short-term memory loss condition offering up some comic relief. However in Finding Dory, the sequel focusing first and foremost on the cutesy blue fish wonderfully brought to life by Ellen DeGeneres, that condition is delved into on a much more thematic level more in tune with more recent Pixar offerings like Inside Out and its complex exploration of depression.
Naturally, this was the logical step forward for the series, and while Finding Dory isn’t as much a treasure as some of the studio’s most emotional works, it is still much better than expected, considering that generally any sequel by Pixar not involved with Toy Story is of mediocre quality in some way, leaving the impression that its existence wasn’t necessary and that the time of these talented artists could have been better utilized creating something fresh. Sure, Finding Nemo itself was also very mature, pondering the meaning and importance of family, but Finding Dory is the more accomplished film and the one that could actually help people in the real world.
Dory’s personality is easy to latch onto (again, you can thank Ellen DeGeneres for that), which makes her plight to remember where her family is and successfully find them much more sympathetic. As you would expect from Pixar, the movie loves touching on the difficulties of living with such a troubling condition that relentlessly complicates everyday life. It would genuinely be interesting to see what someone with short-term memory loss thinks of Finding Dory.
Continuing along with the original’s family subtext, Finding Dory also explores the idea that family is not directly tied to blood. Marlin and Nemo are her friends and just as important as her own immediate family, something that becomes abundantly clear as the movie comes to its thrilling conclusion, which features a ridiculous amount of action out of the ocean. On one hand, some of the content towards the end of the film is so laughably insane you can’t roll with it, but it’s also incredibly genius and a testament to just how creative the artists and filmmakers over at Pixar are. Rarely do they choose the easy route for anything.
Still, none of it all resonates as emotionally hard-hitting as some of their previous works. It’s clear what the intentions are and what the filmmakers are trying to say, but it is just not as memorable or well-executed as something like last year’s Inside Out, which for my money is one of the very best animated features ever made. There are fun new characters and friendships explored (one notable creature is an octopus voiced by Ed O’Neill), but for the most part many of the earlier sequences feel as if the movie is going through the motions, before it reaches the good stuff and all of that aforementioned ludicrous action.
As usual, with every new Pixar feature, I also find myself complementing the stellar animation, which has gotten incredibly difficult because there are only so many ways I can say that the studio is somehow improving their craft in digital rendering photorealism. The splashes of water, ripple effects above the ocean, grains of sand kicking around, vivid bright colors, and movements of the various sea specimens themselves are all incredibly detailed and worthy of immense praise.
Did we need Finding Dory? Probably not, and I for one would be much happier seeing Pixar work on new and exciting projects, but what is here is a mostly touching look at the hardships of living with frustrating conditions such as short-term memory loss, and once again, the importance of friends and family. Some of it retreads the same water, but there is enough here to justify the sequel as anything but a cash-grab.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★