Overview: Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) and Marlin (Albert Brooks) go on another underwater adventure, this time in search of Dory’s long-lost family. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures; 2016; Rated PG; 97 minutes.
Rescue: Much like the fluid nature of the forgetful blue tang protagonist, Finding Dory is a film that doesn’t easily fit into one category. It doesn’t really fit the mold of a spin-off film, a prequel, or a sequel, although it definitely has features of all three blended together. Returning Pixar animation director and co-writer Andrew Stanton took the concept of Dory, their amiable and irresistible supporting character, and spun that off into a film that exudes the same characteristics while still supporting the preceding feature, Finding Nemo. Finding Dory doesn’t just give backstory that layers the characters and themes of the previous film, it also develops and builds upon those same characters and themes to place an already wholesome story told a decade prior under a different light. Finding Dory picks up by reintroducing us to Dory, Marlin, Nemo, and the underwater world they live in a year after the events of Finding Nemo. The film immerses itself a little too deep into familiar waters at the beginning, so much that the fear of a rehashed Finding Nemo crossed my mind, but this is immediately rectified when the characters reach the main setting of the film and are separated from each other into interesting character combinations. Dory herself proves to be a fantastic lead character. Her quirky characteristic introduced in the first film becomes a compelling disability that she must overcome, which makes her solo adventure more thrilling to watch. The film uses this and her bubbly personality in clever ways when setting up and later unfolding the main mystery that surrounds the plot.
Rehabilitation: Using a simple opening sequence shows Dory’s condition, her losing her family, and her ultimate failure to find her family alone is a great back step that reveals the character’s larger journey to find family in Finding Dory without limiting her identity to that of the supporting oddball from Finding Nemo. Stanton handles it all wonderfully, inserting references to Finding Nemo that don’t just act as callbacks, but also serve to supplement her character. Simple lines said in Finding Nemo end up triggering unhappy thoughts, given the character history previously established. While Dory’s journey is expounded upon front and center, Marlin, who has long since moved past his sheltered and overprotective tendencies, is allowed more space for growth and acceptance when the film draws out his arc. Despite being separated this time around, it’s still evident that Dory and Marlin’s bond is what anchors the narrative of the two films to one another and emboldens their respective strengths.
Release: The opening of Up, Toy Story 3’s incinerator sequence, and Joy’s acceptance of sorrow at the bottom of a pit in Inside Out are some great emotional highlight moments in recent Pixar films. Those three examples let the visuals do most of the talking, while Finding Dory’s climax takes a different approach. The filmmakers utilize speech given by Dory, lush scenery, and a frantic first-person POV shot over the course of a single scene, and then move forward with that into another scene that is magnificently set up with the emotional seeds having been planted already by Finding Nemo.
Overall: In 2003, Dory joined Marlin on an unforgettable adventure. In 2016, Finding Dory joins Finding Nemo to become an unforgettable, wholesome duology.