By Ryen Thomas
June 17, 2016
The 2016 summer of sequels continues with Finding Dory, the follow up, 13 years in the making, to Finding Nemo. The obvious question is: Do we really need a sequel that could ruin the legacy of the original or from Pixar, a company that flourishes when they create bold, daring and original work?
To my delight, Dory follows the tradition of Toy Story 2 and 3 by doing its predecessor justice. It’s not as sophisticated and groundbreaking as Nemo or other Pixar films but it maintains the heart, high-quality animation and relevancy that we’ve come to love from those movies.
Nemo’s scene stealer, Dory (Ellen Degeneres), moves front and center as the story’s protagonist. While the events pick up only a few months after Nemo, her flashbacks drive the story. The use of the flashback plot device is intriguing considering that Dory’s Achilles heel is her loss of memory. One would assume that she wouldn’t even have anything to flashback to.
However, our hearts are tugged from the get go with an open that shows a moment between a younger (and extremely adorable) Dory and her sincere and empathetic parents, voiced by Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy. Through their interaction we discover that the forgetfulness which was once just an endearing (and humorous) quirk is really a disability that her guardians encourage her to embrace and work through.
In the first film, the journey’s a physical one; however, here, with each new memory that pops up, Dory’s confidence and determination is strengthened and her journey becomes more internal and about examining the destination. Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence) return and their father/ son dynamic is similar to what’s in the first film. However, there are moments when Nemo comes off as the wisest, more parental one who knows what it really takes to find Dory. Physically finding her allows them the chance to discover more about who she is and what she really means to them.
Every time the story starts to feel stale or redundant, there’s action and suspense that provide the kind of thrill one would expect from a film– if it had a kiddie Bruce Willis. But underneath the ride is context behind Dory’s traits: her constant singing, why she can speak in whale and her “just keep swimming” philosophy. Traits that once appeared as surface quirks, now strike the strongest emotional chord and add new layers to the character.
New characters with their own intricacies or weaknesses to wrestle with flavor the film with the best moments that keep Dory from feeling like a repeat of the first film. Kaitlin Olson as Destiny the whale shark, Ty Burrell as Bailey the beluga whale, Idris Elba and Dominic West as a pair of sea lions, and Ed O’Neill as Hank the Octopus are included. Hank partners up with Dory, becoming her straight man, which was essentially Marlin in the last film; their dynamic, extremely humorous and helps Dory discuss her thoughts. That said, Dory has no problem talking to herself.
Another great voice joins the A-list cast but I’ll allow the film to mention her name over and over and over again.
All of the returning and new elements in Finding Dory brilliantly tie together in a touching way, welcoming themes of self-discovery and questions about the meaning of home and if one feels loved and accepted there. So, do we need this sequel? Probably not, but this film is extremely easy to accept and it’s pretty darn good to see old friends again.
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
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