By Jack Dignan
It's been 13 years since the release of Finding Nemo, but the minute this film started, it was almost as if no time had passed at all. Pixar, before every theatrical release, play a short film, and the one before Finding Dory, while not their best, put me in the right mood to watch this film. Then... the Disney logo appeared, shortly followed by the Pixar one, and boom! I was brought right back into this world I grew up loving, with these characters that feel oddly like old friends. It felt like I was home, and the 13 year gap between films completely disappeared. It was no longer a thing. Dory, Nemo, Marlin and the whole crew were back, and it was everything I wanted.
Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), the happy but forgettable fish from the first film, is back and ready for another journey. After starting to get flashbacks of living with her parents as a young fish, Dory decides to go searched for them, and the more she searches, the more she remembers, which leads her to travel to California where she's taken inside a Marine Life Institution. Here, Dory meets an octopus named Hank (Ed O'Niell), and together they strike up a deal to help get Dory to her parents.
Dory worked well as a side character in Finding Nemo, a fan favourite as a matter of fact, but many, myself not included, were worried she may not be able to hold her own movie. They were worried she works best as a side character, especially after the recent release of Minions, which was a big step down from the Despicable Me films. Rest assured, Dory can well and truly hold her own film, and don't worry, Marlin and Nemo are still in this film for a great deal of it as well. The characters, both new and returning, are all as warm and loveable as ever.
Pixar always manage to up their game with the animation with each and every movie, and while this is textually different to The Good Dinosaur, which featured almost photorealistic environments, that definitely works in this film's favour. It feels a lot like the original, but is also more fleshed out and textured. It's beautiful, and there's some really, really stunning animation work throughout, especially a few moments in which characters poke up out of water to look at something. The detail in the fish designs become really apparent here, and it's rather breathtaking. But we are talking about Pixar after all, the company who started 3D animated movies.
While the title of Finding Nemo is in reference to its simple narrative, Finding Dory implies a lot more than it suggests. No, nobody's trying to find Dory during this movie (unless she's managed to wonder off like she does from time to time), but instead, Dory is on a mission to find herself, hoping to reunite with her family to do so. It's a journey worth taking, and it's not nearly as adventurous as the original, but it's a sweet and touching story backed up with an emotional core that's a delight to watch unfold.
At times, the narrative does feel a little familiar, which is expected when we've seen stories about searching for family before. It does things that aren't all that spectacular, and you can occasionally see where it's going. I could never see too far ahead, but just little things here and there, and while other Pixar films have an unpredictable and shocking narrative, this one didn't. That is until its third act, which went in unexpected, but worthwhile directions, leading to a moment that had me in hysterics. I probably laughed just as much in that one moment as I did in the drug trip scene in The Good Dinosaur. Trust me though, they're for very different reasons.
To sum up, Finding Dory isn't anywhere near the heights of the original, but it was never going to be and I knew that going in. With that in mind, I enjoyed it for what it was. It's a cute, sweet, emotionally charged and loveable movie about finding yourself and the importance of family.