Pixar has a history of taking its sweet ass time with its movies, making sure to tell a story worth telling. It was 13 years ago when their smash hit “Finding Nemo” hit cinemas—a time when no one knew that a clownfish with a tiny left fin could tug on so many heartstrings. More than a decade later,
“Finding Dory” avoids the usual churned-out sequel BS, delivering instead a heartfelt, enlightening film.
Memory plays a crucial part in this film, with the spotlight now on memory-impaired regal blue tang Dory. The nostalgia for all us adults in the cinema and the fond childhood memories sneaking up on Dory form the premise of the sequel. Taking place a year after the original story left off, Dory, Nemo and his dad Marlin are now living peacefully in their coral reef home. One day, Dory is hit by dreams of where she came from, and she decides to seek out her parents. All she has is a single memory: that they used to live in the “Jewel of Morro Bay.”
Dory, Marlin and Nemo head to the opposite side of the ocean, to the coast of California. There, their adventure takes them to the Marine Life Institute—and Dory gets “rescued” by humans. This time around, it’s Marlin and Nemo’s turn to save the forgetful fish.
There’s nothing quite as emotionally powerful as the notion of forgetting your home or your family. The movie piles the sentiment on strong from the start, when we see
Dory navigating the open ocean all on her own as a baby fish. Perhaps it’s a sort of an innate human instinct to want to protect what we grew up with, or perhaps it resonates because everyone feels helpless at one point or another.
Either way, it’s a quick way to get the audience to tear up early on—and not for the last time, either.
There are plenty of throwback references to the first film throughout “Finding Dory,” partly to jog the audience’s memory about a film that’s more than a decade old, and also to build on what made the first film so successful. Those who’ve seen “Finding Nemo” will recognize a few old tricks, and some of it feels formulaic: The token action sequence, a fearful gaze at the destructive power of children, and the parent learning to accept that his child’s own choices are right. However, the genuine heart in this movie will win you over, and what might stick as contrived in any other movie ends up as charming instead.
Despite being nostalgic for adults, “Finding Dory” is still fundamentally a kids’ movie, with countless opportunities unmissed to educate young ’uns about respecting wildlife, treating others kindly, and bravely doing the right thing even when it’s risky. But in doing so, it hits all the fundamental emotions.
“Finding Dory” is a genuinely kind and positive feel-good film. It may have taken Pixar 13 years to make, but it was worth the wait. Evelyn Lok
(USA) Animation. Voiced by Ellen Degeneres,
Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Ed O’Neill. Category I. 97 minutes. Opened Jul 14.