Back in 2003, a little film called “Finding Nemo” was released by Pixar, making it the fifth feature in their line of computer-animated cartoons that also included such projects as “Toy Story,” “Toy Story 2,” and “Monsters, Inc.” They had already had great success with toys and monsters, so why not delve into the depths of the ocean to see if they could throw together another hit? Of course, it too brought the studio more critical acclaim and an extraordinary return at the box office. To this day, in this critic’s humble opinion, it remains their second greatest achievement, second only to Pixar’s recent supreme masterpiece “Inside Out.” As usual, when the film is massively popular, and if the studio feels there’s another story to tell, we find ourselves with a sequel, and so, 13 long years later, we are finally presented with the continuation of the tale in “Finding Dory.”
As the film opens, we meet a very young Dory living with her parents. They do their best to help her with her short-term memory problem, but it’s no easy matter, eventually causing her to get separated from them. Jumping to present day, we find Dory (Voice of Ellen DeGeneres) helping Marlin (Voice of Albert Brooks) to raise Nemo (Voice of Hayden Rolence). While helping out with a class of fish, she suddenly has a flashback of her parents, causing her to want to track them down, but all she has to go on are that they are somewhere in the “Jewel of Morro Bay.” In the company of Marlin and Nemo, she makes it across the ocean to a marine life institute where she believes her parents are, but gets separated when she’s caught and brought inside. With the help of Hank (Voice of Ed O’Neill), an octopus that wants nothing more than to stay out of the ocean by being shipped to Denver, Dory attempts to locate her parents in the institute’s vast park using her fragmented memory as a guide.
Taking a brief look back at “Finding Nemo,” we had a film that was funny, compelling, heartbreaking, charming, and absolutely gorgeous, with a story that had you hanging on until the very end. When it comes to the sequel, many of the same things can be repeated. It being a Pixar film, we know it’s going to be beautifully animated in the same expert manner that we’ve come to expect. The ocean backdrop is once again the perfect setting to show off just how lush the colors and designs can be when this much effort is put into them, resulting in yet another film in their library that looks as though it could jump off the screen.
Much of the credit must also go to the outstanding vocal cast, especially Ellen DeGeneres, whose outstanding timing and nuances make Dory such a memorable character, filling this little fish with heart, charm, and plenty of humor. Similar praise should also be given to the newcomers on the cast, including Ed O’Neill as Hank the octopus, Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy as Dory’s parents, Kaitlin Olson and Ty Burrell as a pair of whales at the institute, and Idris Elba and Dominic West as a couple of sea lions that help out along the way. Everyone embodies their character perfectly, which goes a long way towards helping to bring this fish tale to life.
Where “Finding Dory” doesn’t quite stack up when compared to the original is in its narrative. Don’t get me wrong. It’s a fine story and has a decent amount of emotion packed into it as Dory goes on this epic journey to find her parents (that she suddenly remembered she had). However, this time around, we’re given a story that’s somewhat segmented. In fact, the best way I can describe it is to compare it to the original “Super Mario Bros.” video game, where every time Mario thinks he’s reached his goal, it turns out the princess was in another castle, except in this case it’s Dory’s parents who are in another location. This gives the film a somewhat extended feeling, a feeling that you get over and over again as she comes so close to victory, only to have it snatched away.
Even so, “Finding Dory” is still a fun and heartfelt ride that has so much to enjoy, making it almost impossible not to like it. As it was with the original film, the sequel has a number of amusing moments, pulls on the heartstrings, gets you rooting for the characters, and dazzles your eyes as it takes you on its enticing oceanic adventure. It may not be quite as good as the original film (few sequels ever are), but it still stands very well on its own as a worthy addition to the impressive Pixar collection, and as a film that the entire family can enjoy together.
“Finding Dory” comes to Blu-ray in a 1.78:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of exceptional quality. As we’ve come to expect from Pixar, the picture is beautifully sharp and clear throughout the entire presentation, allowing the gorgeous animation to shine. Likewise, the 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is exquisite, giving you all of the dialogue, sound effects, and Thomas Newman’s score in outstanding quality. Overall, there’s not a single complaint to be had about the marvelous treatment that the film has received, leaving you with a great experience on both fronts.
Audio Commentary with Director Andrew Stanton, Co-director Angus MacLane, and Producer
Lindsey Collins: A great commentary in which the directors and producer give lots of fascinating background info about the film.
Piper (6 Minutes): A sweet short film about a small bird learning to feed itself.
Marine Life Interviews (2 Minutes): An easily skippable inclusion that has the characters discussing Dory.
The Octopus that Nearly Broke Pixar (9 Minutes): A fascinating featurette that goes behind the scenes of bringing Hank to life.
What Were We Talking About? (5 Minutes): A featurette that explores the character of Dory.
Casual Carpool (4 Minutes): Another easily skippable extra that has the director and some of the voice cast carpooling to work.
Animation & Acting (7 Minutes): A great look behind the scenes at the actors recording their parts and how the animation is done to fit the performances.
Deep in the Kelp (3 Minutes): A very brief featurette that shows how Pixar did a lot of research for the film at an aquarium.
Creature Features (3 Minutes): A featurette that has the voice actors sharing information about their respective ocean species.
Skating & Sketching with Jason Deamer (4 Minutes): A brief look at one of the artists at Pixar.
Dory’s Theme (5 Minutes): A featurette that explores the music of “Finding Dory.”
Rough Day on the Reef (1 Minute): A brief look at some of the computer mistakes discovered during production.
Finding Nemo as Told by Emoji (3 Minutes): It’s just as the title says and it too is easily skippable.
Fish Schticks (4 Minutes): A few brief scenes featuring characters from the film.
Deleted Scenes (50 Minutes): A large collection of deleted sequences, some of which are from earlier versions of the film, that feature commentary from director Andrew Stanton.
“Finding Dory” may not quite reach the narrative success of its predecessor, but with an outstanding vocal cast, gorgeous animation, and plenty of heart, it still stands as a fine addition to Pixar’s outstanding library of animated classics. “Finding Nemo” was a nearly impossible act to follow, and the fact that a sequel turned out this well is rather astonishing, leaving the possibility of a return to these characters as a most welcome one.