Never did I expect a movie about animated fish to be be so deep (figuratively, that is), and yet Finding Dory, the long-awaited follow-up to 2003’s Finding Nemo, impressed me greatly by swimming into some surprisingly serious psychological waters in relating the backstory of the title character, a forgetful blue tang voiced by Ellen DeGeneres.
Having previously helped clownfish Marlin (Albert Brooks) rescue his son Nemo, the short-term-memory-inflicted Dory now needs their help to find her parents, whom she starts remembering. They end up at the Marine Life Institute, where they encounter some new aquatic pals, including a grumpy octopus (Ed O’Neill) and a near-sighted whale shark (Kaitlin Olson).
On the surface Dory, like Nemo, is about a physical search for somebody. But as its title tells us, it’s really about Dory searching for her identity — who is she, where did she come from, etc. It admittedly makes for some heavy viewing at times, especially when coupled with Dory’s memory impairment, a conceit that seemed cute in Nemo but feels downright heartbreaking here.
To his credit, Nemo (and Wall-E) helmer Andrew Stanton never lets things become too blue. He deftly balances the melancholy with some zippy set pieces (like the octopus commandeering a truck) and plenty of humor, courtesy of reliably funny voice work by Modern Family stars Ty Burrell (as a beluga whale) and O’Neill, and a couple of sea lions voiced by Idris Elba and Dominic West.
Stanton and his co-writer also make Dory’s reason for being separated from her parents (warmly voiced by Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton) feel organic, and interesting. That we want to know what happened to Dory as much as she does, though, is mainly thanks to DeGeneres, who makes Dory a truly endearing character, and proves in a big way that she can generate pathos as well as she generates laughs.
My only quibble is that the visuals don’t feel quite as wondrous as Nemo’s. I mean, the film looks great — you probably won’t see a sharper looking film this year — and the animators fashion some amazing creatures. I just wasn’t as in awe of the deep blue sea this time ‘round. Perhaps Nemo raised the visual bar a little too high. Which is fine, really, since Dory definitely tops it emotionally. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 11/15/16