Film Review: Finding Dory

Pixar film delivers heart and fun while treading familiar waters.

Sam Thornley / Staff Writer

finding-dory

After thirteen years since the forgetful fish Dory charmed audiences in Finding Nemo, the blue regal tang has made a welcome return in Pixar’s Finding Dory. Starring Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks, reprising the roles of Dory and Marlin, Finding Dory features the fish of Finding Nemo in a new computer animated adventure filled with laughs and touching moments. The film, directed by Pixar veterans Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane, was released on June 17, 2016, and is due to be available on home media November 15 and digital platforms on October 25 this year.

Set one year after Finding Nemo, the story follows Dory as she enlists Marlin and Nemo to help her search for her parents in Morro Bay, California. The trio end up separated and land in a marine life institute, where they must use their wits to escape and find Dory’s parents along the way before the fish are moved to another institute.

What makes Finding Dory fun and unique is the heavy focus on Dory herself, given her disability of short-term memory loss. Thanks to this, Dory often has to improvise in order to survive and solve problems, which makes watching her efforts entertaining. This lends the film a fast pace and spontaneous feel, which helps stave off any feelings of boredom.

In addition, there is no romance to speak of between Dory or any other character in the film. When the general trend in films is to include a token romance of some sort, it nicely shows how people can be close friends with each other without needing to be romantic. Considering many films released by Disney and Pixar follow this trend, this makes it all the more impactful.

The setting of a marine aquarium is also handled in a fairly tasteful manner. In an era where there is much outcry over marine parks like SeaWorld, the film chooses to not have animals perform while giving them a degree of choice in their surroundings. On top of that, it avoids turning the park into a strawman for the negatives of such systems by showing the positive qualities of the park, which prevents the film from getting too preachy on the subject of captive animals.

In terms of the animals themselves, the voice performances are all well done. Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks are very charming and funny as Dory and Marlin, while Hayden Rolence compliments them as a snarky and surprisingly wise for his age Nemo. Ed O’Neill also shines as the grumpy but considerate octopus Hank, while Idris Elba and even Sigourney Weaver make amusing cameos throughout the film.

On the visual side, the film manages to live up to Pixar’s usual animation standards. The animators overhauled their lighting tools for the film and it shows with extensive transition shots from the water to the surface as the animals move about, along with well-designed luminescent sequences. Not to mention, the bright color palette of the film keeps it interesting and should appeal to adults and children alike.

Finding Dory’s biggest strength lies in the emotional focus that is Dory’s search for her parents, along with her memory. The search for Dory’s parents appeals to the fears of adults and kids with its subject matter making the film’s dilemma a very personal one. This dilemma makes the film very engaging and allows for the lack of an antagonist. Most of all, Dory being forgetful is treated as something everyone will get used to in living with her and not something to be ashamed of, which is a valuable message for parents of children with disabilities.

On top of this, the film manages an excellent blend of comedy and drama, often in the same scene. Between funny moments like Dory’s whale mimicry and touching interactions between Nemo and Dory, the film showcases a lot of heart while being able to make the audience laugh at the same time.

As for any major criticisms of the film, it is a sequel that leans on the past more than it should. The general premise is similar to Finding Nemo and the main characters get stuck in pipes, run into friendly aquarium life, and run away from sea monsters much like they did before. As a result, the film treads familiar waters a little too comfortably for its own good and doesn’t quite have a fresh feeling to it.

While the increased focus on Dory is welcome, Marlin and Nemo feel somewhat superfluous to the narrative. Since Dory has most of the character focus and the newcomer critters get their share of the spotlight, Marlin and Nemo spend a lot of time lurking in the background while Dory and the new animals get attention. As a result, they seem to largely exist just because it’s a sequel and they’re required to until the climax makes them important again.

Altogether, Finding Dory manages to be an entertaining adventure that should appeal to children and adults. Even if it is a little too derivative for its own good, the performances and humor are more than enough to justify giving it a watch. With an uplifting nature equivalent to the fish it follows, Finding Dory is jolly and a must see for animation fans.