Disney/Pixar’s sequel to one of the most critically-acclaimed animated movies of all time has finally arrived, but is it a movie that can stand up on it’s own two… fins?
I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t expect a lot from this movie going in. Finding Nemo was a historical movie. If Toy Story put Pixar on the map, Finding Nemo pushed Pixar into the limelight. After Finding Nemo, people started to talk about “those Pixar movies.” People were comparing films to “those Pixar movies.” After Finding Nemo, “those Pixar movies” became the golden standard to measure other animated films against. Sequels just have a way of tarnishing originals and I was afraid this would be the case with Finding Dory. Plus, this movie was going to focus on a secondary character. I didn’t think Dory had enough depth to be the main character of a film.
I was wrong.
Little Dory Is So Cute!
First off, little baby Dory is CUTE!!! It almost isn’t fair.
That’s really it. It’s a small point, but a big point
Baby Dory is cute.
Finding Dory takes us back to the great, big ocean. Just like its predecessor, this film has a plethora of settings. Each scene is set in a beautiful new vista, whether it be the coral reef, the open ocean, or a murky kelp forest. I feel like it’s a given to have really gorgeous backgrounds in animated movies these days, but I also feel like really great work should just not be overlooked. The animators of Finding Dory did a great job creating an ocean for Dory to swim in.
Dory Is Deep Waters
As I said before, I really didn’t think Dory had the breadth of character to carry a film, but this film really expanded on Dory’s character from Finding Nemo. Dory’s major character flaw is her short term memory loss. The film really plays into this, both as a comedic tool and also as a very poignant emotional focus. I was legitimately afraid when Dory found herself alone. It was heartbreaking to see Dory’s memory slip away. Ellen DeGeneres really breathed life into Dory again and her trembling voice and frantic murmurs really made us believe that Dory was panicking and in trouble.
A Sweet Story About Family
Dory’s main objective in this film is finding her family. She crosses the ocean to find her mom and dad, all the while piecing together bits of memories she’s lost. So, in a way, as Dory finds her family, she is also finding her self.
Dory’s family is sweet and always believes in her, despite her mistakes and flaws. The lesson of family loving each other no matter what is an important lesson to learn, especially for young children. Also repeated is the idea that no matter how long you are gone or how far you go, you will always be welcomed back home with loving arms.
I’ll admit that I teared up when Dory finally did find her family again.
The Problem With Hank
During Dory’s journey, she makes friend with a gruff and hard-headed octopus. While Hank was a really funny addition to the movie, he was actually my biggest problem with the film.
Hank became the film’s deus ex machina. Every time Hank showed up, he rescued everyone. Sometimes, he would literally jump from off screen, unexplained and scoop everybody up and carry them to safety. As much as I liked Hank at first, he soon became nothing more than a contrived device to advance the plot.
The resolution to the film’s problem is Hank driving a truck into the ocean. I had a REALLY big problem with this. I know these movies are fantasy and fantasy asks you to suspend your belief for a small amount of time, but Hank made me suspend my belief too far. All these movies, as fantastical as they are, all have a bit of their fantasy based in reality. Take The Good Dinosaur for example, it’s a movie about dinosaurs farming and ranching, but they all move and act like dinosaurs (as far as current science would have us to believe). In Finding Nemo, the fishes talk and sing, but they all move and act like fishes.
Hank defies all these rules. He swings like an ape, spends most of his screen time out of water, and drives a FREAKING truck! While I guess that could be empowering in some way, it took me out of the movie and its element. A movie should contain your attention to the parameters of its story and setting. Once it breaks those parameters, its hard to get your audience’s attention and appreciation back.
What’s The Theme?
The theme of this movie was a bit muddled for me. I had a hard time finding it.
Repeatedly, we are told that Dory solves her problems by being her and by doing things her way, but we are repeatedly shown that Dory needs the help of others to succeed.
So, what’s the theme? Is it that Dory can save herself by being herself or is it that she needs her family and friends to help her? The story flip-flopped back and forth between the two points.
Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks return to voice Dory and Marlin, respectively. Of course, Nemo is voiced by a new actor, because the kid that voiced him in 2003 is now 22. (Who was heartwarmingly featured in another role. I thought that was sweet to include the old voice of Nemo in some way.) Ed O’Neil, Kaitlin Olsen, and Ty Burrell lend their wonderful voices to some great, new characters as well. Ellen’s Dory is unforgettable just as it was in Finding Nemo. For her, this really is the role of a lifetime. I was surprised by the recognizable names in the credits, even in the minor roles.
Finding Nemo featured a great soundtrack, composed by Thomas Newman, who returned to write the music for Finding Dory. The soundtrack featured familiar sounds, instruments, and riffs from the first movie. The music is so serene and soothing. Newman really did a great job taking us back to the ocean.
Is this movie for kids? Of course!
There are some scary instances, no jump scares or anything, but there is a scene where Dory, Marlin, and Nemo get chased by a frightening giant squid. Also, the scenes where Dory is alone may be unsettling for some smaller children. Rather than focusing on Dory’s separation from her family, I suggest focusing on the family coming back together.
It took Disney/Pixar 13 years to take us all back to the ocean. With a heartwarming story about families and a really compelling character in Dory, Finding Dory made all of us adults feel 13 years younger. However, a muddled theme and a contrived resolution kept this movie from being as great as Finding Nemo.
I give Finding Dory a grade of…
What do you think? Have you seen Finding Dory? Do you think it is a good sequel to Finding Nemo? Let me know what you think below!
PS – There’s an after-credits scene just for those of who saw Finding Nemo 13 years ago.