Many people remember the lovable story of Disney Pixar’s 2003 feature Finding Nemo as a heartwarming hit from back in the day; a film that prided itself as one of the best of Disney’s storytelling using the animal kingdom. With a massive fanbase and more than a decade-long wait for a sequel film, Finding Dory had a lot of weight to carry at the box office.
Marlin, the worrisome adult clownfish (voiced by Albert Brooks), Nemo, Marlin’s naïve son (voiced by Alexander Gould) and Dory, the energetic blue tang with short-term memory loss (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) return in Finding Dory as the film starts off one year after Nemo’s return to the reef. The trio seem to be living contently at home after their great adventure took them to extraordinary places in and out of the ocean in Finding Nemo. After a series of small nostalgic coincidences, Dory starts to piece together the locations of her long-lost family and takes Marlin and Nemo on a quest to reunite with her parents in her birthplace, an exhibit within a marine life aquarium. The trio meet up with old nautical friends on the way and make new ones when they reach the aquarium, including a pair of barking sea lions, two bickering whales and a distressed octopus.
The plot of the movie is fresh and distinct from its predecessor, Finding Nemo. Instead of the characters embarking on a journey to an unknown destination and meeting different characters at checkpoints, the majority of the story takes place in one location. Dory’s separation from Marlin and Nemo really characterized the distinction of Dory’s spontaneous impulses versus Marlin’s planning and logical analysis. In Finding Dory, you get to witness two sides of the coin, as opposed to the conflict of interests displayed in Dory and Marlin’s journey in Finding Nemo. I thought that this plot decision was a respectable one, as it really distinguishes Finding Dory from its predecessor and defines it as more of a spinoff sequel rather than just a pure sequel.
It’s really hard not to compare a movie with its predecessor, especially if the latter was one of the most iconic films of its time. Reluctantly, I have to say that I wish Finding Dory included more major characters in the film. In Finding Nemo, there were two distinct stories happening at the same time. The first is Marlin and Dory’s adventure to find Nemo and the second is Nemo’s rite of passage in his time at the dentist’s fish tank. One thing I really appreciated was that in Marlin and Dory’s side of the story, every minor character felt like a major character during the time that they were given. If you look at the turtles, Bruce and the sharks, Nigel the pelican and other friends met on the journey, they were given ample time to develop a personality and backstory. In the first movie, Nemo’s tank buddies were given the spotlight for character development. I didn’t see a lot of detail or depth invested into many of the characters in Finding Dory and wish the movie had been extended longer, not only for the purpose of building the characters, but also to illustrate the hardships of departing on yet another journey.
Comparisons aside, Finding Dory by itself is an amazing movie. One thing that Disney nailed with this film is defining the backstory of Dory with constant flashbacks. Seeing Dory’s childhood was not only cute, but it also explained a lot of the details and tendencies of Dory’s personality, such as the “just keep swimming” song. The flashbacks were an essential part of explaining the story step-by-step and, as a viewer, you really felt and understood Dory’s mindset and viewpoint as you got to piece together the story with her.
Another ace in the hole was the way different characters reacted to Dory’s short-term memory loss. It really upgraded the comedy factor and it was intriguing to see different fish struggle to cope with Dory’s spontaneity, whether it was through frustration or bliss.
Last, but certainly not least, is the film’s really definitive emotional effect. Much like Finding Nemo’s beginning scene of Marlin’s wife’s tragic death and the loss of almost all of his kids, Finding Dory had a good amount of scenes that struck at my heart and brought tears to my eyes. The best thing was that the plot of the story wasn’t predictable in a sense that I knew exactly what was going to happen. The film definitely takes you through an exciting roller coaster ride of emotions whether it be comedy, sorrow, mourning or joy.
Finding Dory is an exceptional film that I’d recommend to anyone, even if they haven’t watched Finding Nemo. Despite my very minor and conditional critiques, the film really blew away my expectations. It’s a great feature to watch with anyone, whether it be family, friends or a date. The experience will be truly unforgettable.