Stars: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell
Directed by: Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane
Opening Date: Friday June 17th, 2016
It’s been thirteen years too many since the masterminds at Pixar enthralled us with the touching rescue story of an ill-fated worry wart clownfish father and his chance encounter with a questionably helpful, whale-whispering blue tang partner. Their journey across the briny deep to save a fledgling finned son from human captivity was equally as inspiring as it was mystifying, and solidified Finding Nemo as stuff of filmmaking and animating legend. For these reasons, their hiatus almost seems justifiable, as they knew they were treading more dangerous waters than Marlon and Dory ever did if they attempted to pull off the feat of making a sequel that was of equal or surpassing quality to its predecessor.
Yet despite the Mariana’s trench like void of time we all spent awaiting our next run in with the deep sea trio, fans (and the talent that inspired their fandom) couldn’t help but remember what they were missing. When everyone felt as though all hope was lost, the announcement of Finding Dory, like a beacon of refracted light, warmed our hearts in anticipation. After three more grueling years of patience, did the next iteration in one of Pixar’s most beloved franchises sink? Or did it follow suit with Dory’s now famous self-taught tune and just keep swimming? Good news: The film coalesced into a heart-throbbing and heartstring-yanking adventure that can be enjoyed by both children and adults.
In the true Pixarian fashion of giving feelings to things that don’t have feelings, Finding Dory, at its core, is a tale of loss, the desire to belong and the unshakable willpower to reunite with one’s family, regardless of unfathomable distances. Dory, accompanied by longtime companions, Marlon and Nemo, impulsively follows her gut and pieces together the puzzle, drawing on inhibited memories. While not as nuanced as we might have hoped, the story is fairly predictable: fish loses family, fish embarks on journey to regain family, fish encounters hardships along the way. But it’s done so impeccably for a second time that scolding them for unoriginality just seems unfair. Plus, it’s an all-ages type of film (they handed out chewy bars and goldfish after the screening) and as such, it can’t exactly be cerebral without having at half the audience’s heads tilt in confusion.
My head couldn’t nod enough in approval as I listened to Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks expertly reprise their roles as our contrasting duo, Dory and Marlon. Their seamless chemistry is beyond briliant, with Dory’s friendly, dimwitted charm melding with Marlon’s realism and conservative wit in perfect harmony. Their clashing ideals about how to approach sticky situations on screen had me laughing and their innocent brawls had me palming the center of my chest in short-lived sadness. Yet oddly enough, they spend a decent part of the film apart from the each other.
Taking Marlon’s place by Dory’s side is the preferably solitary, hilariously dubbed septopus, Hank (Ed O’Neill). His cephalopod capabilities to sleuth around security personnel and camouflage into just about anything, will leave you questioning why the phrase “octopus burglar” didn’t catch on. Underneath his hard, yet squishy, suction-cupped exterior lies an old, lovable soul who just wants to be respectively left alone. After all he went through to try and achieve that throughout the film, you won’t hold it against him, trust me.
Then we’ve got our two favourite Marineland attractions personified: Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), the practically blind whale shark and Bailey (Ty Burrell), the in denial beluga. The mocking words they exchanged through their cubicle separating grate left me in a snicker fit, and their persistence to make each other realize their capabilities will ensure a persistent grin of satisfaction.
The rest of the ensemble cast, including a bug-eyed hyper active bird, two brawny and territorial Scottish seals, Dory’s patient parents, and some old favorites like the gnarly pounder-hitting sea turtles and the nomadic field tripper, Mr. Ray, compliment the main cast exceptionally. Not only is the narrative framework humorous and spellbinding, but the animation that brought the story and its numerous characters to life will leave you having to pick your jaw out of the sticky, popcorn-ridden residue of the cinema floor. I could effortlessly visualize cinematic crispness, every gill, scale, fin and reef was highlighted in industry standard setting, gorgeous detail.
I can only think up one aspect of the film that slightly irked me: the sometimes stupidly coincidental action scenes, especially their lucky transfers from fresh air to oxygen rich water. Everything else looked and felt fantastic, and much to the envy of Dory, forgetting the magical experience you’ll have with this film will be next to impossible. I give Finding Dory a 9 out of 10.