The story of a father’s desperate search across the ocean for his young son was a gripping yarn and one of the best the studio has produced. They obviously have a high standard, but not all their follow up films have hit the mark. Finding Dory, thankfully, is a pleasure to watch. The smartest move the film makers pulled off was in shifting the focus from the main characters in the first film, to one of its other aquatic stars.
Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) has found a home with young Nemo and Marlin (Albert Brooks). She is happy, but a sudden jolt to her short-term memory problem results in her having flashbacks to her own childhood.
Dory remembers how she too had a family and how she somehow lost them. We see a baby Dory struggling to get back home, while all the time her memories of mum and dad fade into the distance. As her journey continues we eventually get to the point where she first met Marlin as he is finding Nemo.
As her flashbacks continue, Dory remembers the name of a place that holds the key to her past. The jewel of Monterey, California’ turns out to be a marine research centre… and the place that Dory remembers as home.
Once inside we meet Hank, an octopus who helps out on the condition that he can get assistance to escape to Cleveland. Nemo and Marlin get lost in the search and have to find their own way in. As Dory remembers more, she fears that it might be too late to be reunited with her parents and her new family fear they might lose their friend too.
The sequences of baby Dory are astoundingly good. It was always going to be difficult to follow up the gut-wrenching opening of Finding Nemo, so the filmmakers here opt for a different yet equally effective approach. The loss of Dory, the inability of her to remember where she needs to go and her hopelessness is captured with immense impact. The cuteness of the big-eyed fish is paired with our own sense of the impending terror and it is brutal.
Supporting characters this time around are also just as good. We do meet a few familiar faces, but also get introduced to a handful of new ones too. Destiny, a friend that Dory recalls from her earlier days in the aquarium, has now grown into a huge short-sighted whale. Her neighbour is a beluga whale who initially refuses to use his echo ability to help. In the end, all the animals rally round and lend a fin of assistance. This includes Idris Elba and Dominic West as a pair of very English seals and even Sigourney Weaver as… well, Sigourney Weaver.
Trust us, when you see the film you’ll get it.
The contrivances towards the end of the film, that culminate in a freeway chase with Hank driving a van to freedom do get too much. We can accept the general fantasy element established by the underwater world and the rules therein, but things really do go too far here. They just leave you feeling slightly exasperated and exhausted rather than elated.
These are minor gripes in an otherwise brilliant film. The animation and score, once again by Thomas Newman, are top notch. The characters manage to get you invested in the trials and tribulations and the result is one of the best Pixar animations in years.
All things considered, this is arguably the best sequel the studio have ever produced and they’ve done it by not making a sequel in the traditional sense.
The story of Dory gets the proper Pixar treatment.
Finding Dory is released in the UK on July 29 and screened at the Edinburgh Film Festival.