I walked into this movie very hesitant. It’s been like 15 years since the original Finding Nemo came out, so it felt a little late for a sequel like this, especially one that takes place almost immediately after the events of the first movie. Would this movie be able to find the same heart that the original had? Or suffer a fate like Cars 2?
The forgetful Dory (Ellen Degeneres) just helped father Marlin (Albert Brooks) rescue his son Nemo (voiced this time by Hayden Rolance). Suddenly she remembers that she too had a family, one that she realized must be searching for her. So she goes on a journey this time to try to remember her past and reconnect with her family. We see her current journey, as well as plenty of flashbacks that show us what she’s been forgetting.
We also have her parents (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy), her whale best friend Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), a renegade septopus (Ed O’Neill), a beluga struggling with echolocation (Ty Burrell), and two sea lions (Idris Elba and Dominic West).
This movie wasn’t marketed right because it focused on nostalgia and really only showcased the first act of this movie, in which Dory goes on a very familiar journey across the ocean, which feels like a beat-for-beat retelling of Finding Nemo. So that’s what I expected and why I was underwhelmed by the trailers. However, I’m pleased to report that this journey doesn’t last especially long and ultimately becomes a new and interesting story taking place in California, which feels very unique and new.
Dory herself carries the movie well. It’s a sad story as she’s constantly realizing how much she’s forgotten and we’re seeing tragic flashbacks with her family. Degeneres manages to walk a fine line of the goofy and lovable Dory from the original but also giving her story more weight, able to focus on the serious repercussions of not having a short term memory.
One of the characters that Dory befriends in this journey is an octopus named Hank, who is missing a leg (so I guess that makes him a septopus) and is voiced by Ed O’Neill. Hank steals the show, on quite a few occasions, and provides his fair share of laughs but also is a technical marvel. Not only did Pixar have to perfect how an octopus would move and walk (and do some other crazier things as well) but they had to also find ways to incorporate this camouflage that he can use. Technically, he looks great, and is probably my favorite addition to the cast.
In general, the movie is really funny too. Much more than I was expecting.
What doesn’t work?
The first act does feel very familiar, including several cameos and appearances that didn’t quite mesh with the rest of the movie. It luckily changes directions for the second and third act.
While it feels familiar, it also feels incredibly predictable. This is a kids’ movie, as was apparent by the constant crying and yelling in the theater, so I don’t blame it too much, but Pixar usually does a better job of catering to both audiences. It felt like a by-the-numbers story arc that never really surprises you.
Finding Dory succeeded in a lot of ways I didn’t expect it to, so I left the theater very pleased. It is a kids’ movie, but it managed to introduce some great new characters and some new technical achievements that really stood out, though the story felt very familiar and predictable. You’ll enjoy this movie most if you have some kids to bring, but most adults can at least appreciate this movie on their own.