Finding Dory (2016)
Voices of Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, and Sigourney Weaver. Written by Victoria Strouse and Andrew Stanton. Directed by Andrew Stanton.
I can’t decide if I’m a tough audience or an easy audience for Finding Dory, Pixar’s sequel to Finding Nemo. I have an enormous bias in Pixar’s favor, but I consider the 2003 original to be the animation studio’s best work. Would my predilection predict that I would like it, or would my super-high expectations predict that I’d be disappointed?
It doesn’t matter much now, because I freaking love this movie. It’s got just about everything the first movie had. The sequel doesn’t wow me quite as much as the predecessor, but it makes up for that with an emotional punch I didn’t see coming. There’s one amazing gasp-inducing emotional payoff that comes close to the lanterns scene in Tangled or even the library scene in Beauty and the Beast. This is rarefied air I’m talking about here, a comparison I don’t make lightly.
A year after Dory helps Marlin find Nemo, she’s become something of a helper in raising the young clownfish. But with her memory problems, she’s almost as much maintenance as Nemo, ‘though she remains beloved by her community on the Great Barrier Reef. Something triggers in Dory a memory she didn’t know she had, of parents and a home. She’s determined to find her family, but she knows that without help from her friends, she can’t hope to make it any more than she can hope to remember what she’s looking for.
You would think Marlin, after everything Dory has done for him and Nemo, would be completely on board, but he’s still psychotically risk-averse, and Dory wants to go to California, so for much of her adventure, she depends on the kindness of others, mostly a seven-armed octopus who agrees to assist in exchange for something Dory can do for him.
The animation is again fantastic, although since you’ve seen a lot of it before, you’ll have to look a little harder to see where the budget went. Water is a strange, beautiful thing that behaves differently from anything else I can think of. The way it moves, the way it changes in different kinds of light, and the way other things interact with it seem impossible to represent well, so there’s a good place to start. I suspect it’s a movie that rewards multiple viewings, and I look forward to discovering more.
One of the most rewarding things about Finding Dory is how elements in this story explain some things in Finding Nemo, stuff that didn’t really need explaining but makes that movie more interesting too. This isn’t just a spin-off, continuation, or rehash, although the general story structure is very close (almost disappointingly close) to the first film’s. It’s more like the ocean is an enormous place with a million stories, and some of them have interlocking pieces which complete each other’s pictures.
I’ve never heard of a voice actor getting nominated for an acting award, and that makes all kinds of sense, but if I were part of the nominating process, I’d be tempted at least to consider Ellen Degeneres for a best actress nod. This picture could have been animated by five-year-olds, and she would have made it worth watching. This was not animated by five-year-olds, and it’s an excellent film I’d put in the lower part of Pixar’s upper tier.