Very excited to launch the first series of retrospective reviews, and this month, the focus will be on Disney Pixar! As already mentioned here, I have assembled an awesome team of writers who are going to be sharing their thoughts with you. Quite frankly it’s time I shut up (just kidding, this is impossible!), and it’ll mean you’re introduced to a whole load of incredible writers and movie bloggers, so be kind to them!
Finding Dory (2016)
Directed by: Andrew Stanton & Angus MacLane
Starring: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson
On the search for Nemo back in 2003, one loveable sidekick captured audience’s hearts. She may be an amnesiac, but to us she was unforgettable. Thirteen years later, she managed to find herself a sequel – ‘Finding Dory’ – this time taking the starring role. Of course, the picture is the seventeenth in Disney Pixar’s filmography (a studio renowned for its quality – check out my ranking of every Pixar film here), and everyone’s hopes were incredibly high for the sequel. ‘Finding Nemo’ remains one of the highest-grossing films in the studio’s history, along with it being the highest selling DVD, ever, worldwide. Pixar have experienced both ends of the ‘sequel success’ rating, but where does ‘Finding Dory’ fall in terms of quality? Is it the disappointing and underwhelming ‘Cars 2’, the sensational ‘Toy Story 2’ or the more middling and possibly unnecessary ‘Monsters University’?
Forgetful fish Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) begins to remember elements of her childhood, including her parents, whom she was separated from when she was young. Determined to find them, she begins her adventure across the ocean, but gets separated from Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (the newly-cast Hayden Rolence) on the way. Forced to go on alone and now wanting to reunite with both families, she meets a whole host of new friends at the Marine Life Institute to help her on the journey, including Hank the Octopus (Ed O’Neill), Destiny the near-sighted whale shark (Kaitlin Olson) and Bailey the beluga whale (Ty Burrell). With a rousing tale that teaches of friends, family, instinct, overcoming adversary, and love, this is quintessential Pixar territory, and happy to say another jewel in their almost flawless crown.
As with ‘Finding Nemo’, ‘Finding Dory’ is swimming in heart and charm, capturing the same level of depth as its predecessor with lovely ingenuity and a multitude of touching moments, without ever feeling like a complete retread. Maneuvering between beautiful set pieces and locations, the film is continually moving and evolving towards the resolution, while being completely engaging from beginning to end; even when we follow the two different stories, they cross beautifully and you are invested in each equally. While it may not feel as fresh as ‘Finding Nemo’ did (which, in many ways, pushed animation to places it had never been before, following in the footsteps of Toy Story), Dory definitely wins on the humour side, proving to be relentlessly amusing; from Dory’s forgetfulness to the new character’s individual quirks that ensure they are as memorable as those from the first film. In fact, that’s another area the film excels in – the voice cast are magnificent, bringing to life the characters and ensuring they suit their traits. DeGeneres is, of course, an absolute joy as the titular character and whilst I doubted whether the character could truly be the ‘star’, she proved me wrong, by making Dory as endearing as she was the first time. The charm certainly hasn’t worn off. Baby Dory (Sloane Murray) is also incredibly adorable and makes you fall in love with the character in a completely new way.
On a technical note, ‘Finding Dory’ also soars; the colour palettes used throughout are gorgeous and, despite being set in the water for the vast majority of the time, each scene has its own slight deviation in the blue-green colour scheme that ensures it does not morph into one, keeping it exciting and innovative. The attention to detail is thorough and carefully crafted, from the precise movement of Hank to the individual crafted bubbles – the screen is full to the brim of absolute wonders to be amazed at and behold, making this arguably one of Pixar’s most stunning films to date. The way in which the ethereal haze defines the past from the present is dazzling; as is the way the transformation between past and present occurs, connecting the two events structurally with solid cohesion.
‘Finding Dory’ features just a few minor issues to prevent it from full marks – in a few instances, Dory echoes Nemo a little more than one would like and never pushes itself in inventiveness and originality as far as it probably should. That said, I do have to question whether doing this would push ‘Finding Dory’ too far away from ‘Finding Nemo’, and thus, I can understand the writer’s favouring familiarity over originality. It sometimes take big leaps to get the characters where they need to be, but in the name of convenience, one can forgive and forget – this is, technically, a children’s film after all, its just we’re all a little bit invested in Pixar and its highest-tier film-making!
Whilst the gorgeous animation, impressive voice cast and technical skill are all incredibly important and central to the film’s overall success, it is the subtlety in its inspiring themes that make Finding Dory work so profoundly. The plethora of messages – home, identity, love, family – gives something for all viewers to appreciate, and learn from, without ever feeling heavy-handed, forced or out of place. ‘Finding Dory’ is evidence that it takes multiple elements to make a film successful and Pixar pass each of them with flying colours and whats more, is it sticks on subsequent viewings, a rare feat for most films, particularly animations where the charm may begin to wear off. I can nit-pick and go searching for flaws but at the end of it, Dory’s own determination reflects that of Pixar’s to craft another incredible tale and, like the theme song suggests, it really is unforgettable.
And now, let me end of this… ‘Finding Dory’ is the rarest of sequels – better than the original and truly top tier Pixar.
Summary: Finding Dory is swimming in heart, warmth and charm, with stunning animation, incredible technical skill, a solid vocal cast and a touching story, offering yet another superbly crafted film and a new jewel to wear proudly in their crown.
Highlight: “Hello. I’m Sigourney Weaver”
Rating: 9.5 out of 10