Self-discovery paves the way to life’s greatest journeys in Disney Pixar’s “Finding Dory,” a heart-felt animated comedy by director Andrew Stanton. A sequel to Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” from 2003, the film picks up a year after the first underwater adventure as Dory, the loveable blue tang fish with short-term memory loss, sets out to discover her long-lost family.
Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) has spent the last year living in the Great Barrier Reef with clownfish Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks), and his son, Nemo (voiced by Hayden Rolence), while trying to cope with her short-term memory loss. But everything changes when Dory is able to recall a chance memory from her childhood, a memory of her parents. With Marlin and Nemo’s help, Dory travels to a California aquarium, hoping to find her long-lost family and herself in the process.
From the very beginning, “Finding Dory” falls into place alongside its predecessor while remaining a unique, independent story that is able to define its own messages and themes. One of the more common troubles to befall a sequel happens when the writers grow lazy with their approach, choosing to duplicate or retread the original film by repackaging it in a new setting.
Luckily, Stanton and the rest of the crew from Pixar have focused on not only telling a new story with
new messages, but they have majorly retooled the atmosphere to differ it from the first film, and allow the narrative to stand on its own. By taking the story in a new direction, the filmmakers are able to create a novel atmosphere, a film that stands on its own.
However, this pendulum swings both ways; audiences typically go to a sequel because they want more of what they enjoyed from the original. “Nemo” could be described as an underwater “road trip”; in contrast, “Dory” confines most of its action to a relatively single location, and by design creates an entirely different type of story. Yet, as a testament to the ability of the filmmakers, this angle is done well and allows the story to follow the characters, who are the main focus for the audience.
In keeping with Pixar’s keen eye for storytelling, the film is able to reel in viewer’s interests early and keep them hooked through the duration of the narrative. Despite feeling fundamentally different than what one may have anticipated, the messages and themes speak at a deep, emotional level that fosters an immediate attachment to the characters. The story utilizes an abundance of witty and smart comedy to advance each scene, and keep the film moving toward the end.
While it does not match the same level of adventure as its predecessor, director Andrew Stanton’s “Finding Dory” sets out to dazzle and delight with beautiful environments and heartfelt emotion from its characters. The filmmakers knew they could never surpass the original film, and instead of a downtrodden retread, audiences are invited to witness an adventure that is willing to explore a new direction. The result is a delightful, humorous story about a fish who just keeps on swimming.
My grade: 7.5 out of 10 stars.
(Timothy Hogg is a copy editor for The Derrick./The News-Herald. He has a minor in film and media studies from Slippery Rock University. Readers may contact him by email at timothyhogg.thederrickgmail.com.)