2003’s Finding Nemo was a special experience. No one had seen animation of such high quality before, and neither had anyone seen a movie about talking fish. Every character was a memorable delight and director Andrew Stanton cleverly subverted many film stereotypes — which was a refreshingly new style of animation filmmaking at that time. A sequel coming 13 years later seems like an easy opportunity for a cash grab, but Pixar proves once again that they don’t make films just to make money, but to genuinely entertain their audiences.
Finding Dory once again takes us back to the ocean, and though it’s nowhere close to the original in quality, it’s still a solid entertainer. As you would have guessed by the title, the story this time focuses on the side character in the previous film — Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) the blue fish with short-term memory loss. Since we never really know where she came from, writer director Stanton decides to follow the same formula as the previous film to identify Dory’s origin.
Once again Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence) swim to uncharted territory half way across the ocean world, this time to reunite Dory with her parents.
If your heart contains cockles, there’s a guarantee of them being warmed. Being a Pixar film, there’s just too much fun to be had and cuteness to be adored. There are a few new characters, like Hank (Ed O Neil) a cranky octopus and Destiny (Kaitlin Olson) a whale shark with short sightedness to keep the giggle quotient consistent. Continuing the tradition of squeezing out a few tears from audiences, Pixar once again manipulate you just enough to reach out for your hankie — though the tearjerker moments are more pronounced this time, one of which seeming almost out of a Dharma movie.
The animation is just eye popping — not just how photorealistic everything looks, but in the way it never looks very different from the original film. It never feels like a decade and a half has passed since the previous film. The amazing thing is you expect Pixar movies to be incredibly good looking, and still the film’s digital colours manage to blow one away, especially in 2D.
But if you expected this movie to replicate the insane hit rate of the Toy Story sequels, you’ll be disappointed. It’s not as misguided as Cars 2 but more in the league of Monsters University, another film that played safe rather than pushing the limits of storytelling. The other problem is the fact that Dory was a memorable character in Nemo because she appeared in bits and spurts. When you make your dessert your main course, things tend to get monotonous, which Minions became a victim of. Dory’s character is never as annoying as the Minions but you do wish she shut up for a while and let Nemo get some screen time instead.
After Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur, Finding Dory does feel like a small step down from the studio, but only because they set the standard so high. And with Disney belting out classics every year since the past four years one tends to wonder if John Lasseter has been putting more effort in Disney than in Pixar.