The vast majority of Pixar’s films hold very special significance to many people, myself included. While they have one or two duds, or films that aren’t as great as their other films, most of their films are innovative, iconic and brilliant. Finding Nemo has perhaps the most important relevance to me, as it is one of the first films I ever remember seeing in cinemas. Back then, I was a little child, still holding on to his childhood before the inevitable rise of the teenage years, which were brooding on the horizon. Finding Nemo was an absolute revelation to me, and with Pixar having been around making feature-length animated motion pictures for less than a decade, it was still a studio finding its voice.
Pixar in the early 2000s produced some of the greatest animated films of all time – and unfortunately, regardless of how hard they try, they haven’t been able to capture that specific magic in quite the same way again (many films, such as Inside Out and Monsters University, are absolutely wonderful – they just didn’t have the spark that made films such as Toy Story, The Incredibles and Finding Nemo as great as they were). Of course, the best way to describe Finding Dory is through something I read online earlier this week, where Patrick Stinson called Finding Dory “the Godfather Part II of cartoon fish movies” – a film that is as good as its previous and iconic predecessor, but one that may even be better than the original. Right from the outset, I will say that there isn’t a chance that Finding Dory is anywhere close to being as good as Finding Nemo.
However, it is still a damn great film, and one of the best animated films to come out over the past few years from Pixar, who I feel are starting to rest on their laurels a bit too much for my liking. Finding Dory represents a return to form, where the two major eras of Pixar collide – the humble and quirky early era, and the later era, which is obsessed with unique stories and concepts. Finding Dory was a bizarre choice of a film – not that it was an unwanted film (believe me, this was a film that we all wanted, and we were vehemently vocal about it), but rather because it doesn’t seem to be a progressive and forward-thinking film – Pixar has started to become more and more creative, and the fact that they returned to a film that gave them remarkable success, with a sequel that was almost identical in skeletal story, with very little else in terms of innovation is truly bizarre – but that doesn’t make Finding Dory any less of a great film – and in fact, I felt like Finding Dory is one of the most overdue films of the current era, and it just came about a decade too late, and this isn’t to say it is outdated, but rather because this is a film that we deserved to have sooner than later – but the idea of the original Finding Nemo generation, now functioning adults, enthusiastically rushing to cinemas with the same reckless abandon and excitement as their much younger selves did is something truly wonderful to imagine, and I assure you it is absolutely true.
Finding Dory picks up about a year after Finding Nemo – Dory (Ellen Degeneres), Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence, replacing original voice actor Alexander Gould) have continued their relatively simple lives (but can fish really have complex lives?), when Dory suddenly remembers the entire reason for her adult existence – many years before, as a small fry, she lost her parents, Jenny (Diane Keaton) and Charlie (Eugene Levy) somehow, and she has spent her entire life since searching for them. She goes on a wild adventure, where she finds herself at a marine rescue centre, where she encounters various interesting characters that we were not introduced to in the previous film – Hank, a seven-legged octopus (Ed O’Neill), Bailey, a self-conscious beluga whale (Ty Burrell) and Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), a whale shark and childhood friend of Dory. Together, they try and assist Dory in her search for her parents. As with Finding Nemo, Finding Dory doesn’t always go according to plan, and it is as exciting and thrilling as the previous film, with twists and turns aplenty.
Ellen Degeneres wrote herself into the voice-acting history books with her breakthrough performance as Dory in Finding Nemo. It was obvious that somehow, Pixar would capitalize on her appeal, and I would even go so far as to argue that Dory is Pixar’s greatest creation, and most popular character. Degeneres, at the time of Finding Nemo, was a popular comedienne and sitcom performer, but in the years that followed, she arguably became the dominant figure in daytime television, and while she found incredible success in her talk show, Finding Nemo was her last major film performance (and actually, her last time performing as a character). This all changed with Finding Dory, her triumphant return to an iconic character. It was wonderful to see Degeneres return to the role that gave her legions of fans, and this time in the leading role.
Degeneres has a strangely endearing quality to her that even shines through only her voice, and you can say what you’d like about how beautiful and innovative Pixar’s animation is, one cannot deny that what makes a character endearing is the actor behind that voice – Pixar has always done an amazing job at casting actors perfect for the character, and they found something truly special in Degeneres. Finding Dory is honestly only worth it for Dory herself, and even though the delightful Albert Brooks returns, as well as some new voice talent from other notable performers (my personal favorite being Idris Elba’s hilarious performance as a friendly sea lion), Degeneres is just perfection in the role, and the film and her performance do well to not taint the iconic nature of the character, and if anything, they just characterize her more and improve upon the character.
Finding Dory is wonderful. It is Pixar continuing to make animation one of the most legitimate forms of art. I am not someone who is normally very big on sequels, and I was worried that Finding Dory would not live up to the incredibly high standard of Finding Nemo. It did do very well in being as good as Finding Nemo, but also found its own voice in its story. I highly doubt this story will continue, and that is exactly the way I want it – I am not sure my heart can take another film where these characters lose each other, or get lost, because it proves the brilliant skill Pixar has for creating characters we care about. Finding Dory is definitely a wonderful film, and it exceeds the previous few entries in the Pixar canon. Its a great addition to a studio that continues to push the boundaries, and the result is something as special and wonderful as the original. Sitting in that cinema, I felt like a little kid again, and that is true cinematic escapism.