Genre: Animation | Comedy
Directed by: Andrew Stanton
Starring: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks and Hayden Rolence
Written by: Andrew Stanton and Victoria Strouse.
Last night, my friend and I decided that we were in the mood to see an animated flick. At the ripe age of 23, we were expecting to be, at the very least, two of the oldest people in the theatre. Much to our amusement, the theatre only had people in their 20’s, overcome with childhood nostalgia, hoping to score front-row seats to the film. What were we there to see, you may ask? We were there to see none other than Finding Dory, the sequel to the 2003 Disney/Pixar smash hit Finding Nemo, which has finally swum onto the big screen after years of anticipation.
Finding Dory impressed me with its emotional directness, courageous characters and technical excellence. It became clear from the outset of the film that director and screenwriter Andrew Stanton had chosen to stick with the overall spirit of the first film, even going as far as to recycle the general plot.
In similar fashion to the beginning of the first film, Finding Dory opens with a flashback to Dory’s parents instructing their young daughter to tell people that she has “short term remember-y loss”. This is something that the audience is frequently reminded of in various flashbacks throughout the movie.
In the present day, Dory remembers that she has parents who live in California. Despite her frustrating memory impairment making it seemingly impossible for Dory to do anything for more than a minute, she sets out into the open ocean, joined by her friends Marlin and Nemo. The return of this loveable trio sees the brilliant Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks and Hayden Rolence reprieve their roles from the first film.
Just as we saw with Nemo in the first film, Dory finds herself as a fish-out-of-water when she is quarantined at the Marine Life Institute in California. What ensues is an action-packed adventure that sees our film hero reunited with her long, lost family.
So, how does this film compare to its predecessor? It can be a risky endeavour for any film franchise to promote their comedic sidekick to the role of film hero; however, Dory is shown to be the perfect lead for this film. She brought humour and optimism to her role in Finding Nemo so, with her memory slowly returning, there was plenty of opportunity for her character to be further developed this time around. It could also be said that DeGeneres’ performance is arguably one of the greatest voice performances in animation history.
There is an eccentric collection of new characters in this film; in particular, a pair of hilarious, scene-stealing sea lions that are voiced by Idris Elba and Dominic West. Their combination of calm helpfulness but sheer madness provide the audience with some very real laughs.
The most poignant aspect of the film was that it ventured into social territories that Finding Nemo had not. Where Nemo’s weakness to overcome was entirely physical, Dory’s is much more imperceptible. Due to her memory loss, Dory is shown to have been an outsider most of her life. She is harder to understand in a society filled with confident surfer turtlers and boisterous sea lions. It would not be a stretch of the imagination to see this as being a parable of how a community can choose to support – or cast out – those who live with mental illness. This perspective gives the film an intensely emotional core, exploring the emptiness and loneliness that Dory’s affliction has given her; an affliction that has previously only been played for comedy.
The film also did not glamorise the captivity of marine life. The goal of the marine research facility was made explicitly clear – “rescue, rehabilitation and release”. This underlying ecological message was further reinforced by the portrayal of human-generated water pollution along the Californian coastline, a stark contrast to the otherwise stunning undersea world. When I think back to Finding Nemo, I do not recall Nemo getting suck in a plastic six-pack beer ring. The film also presents a strong case as to why children’s touch ponds should be banned in aquariums and marine facilities.
Finding Dory is currently topping the box office for the third consecutive week. Although it remains to be seen as to whether it will go down in film history, there is no denying that it has made a spectacular splash. Finding Dory delivers an ocean of opportunity for film lovers of all ages, and the loveable heroine her swum right into my heart.
THUMBS UP? Ellen DeGeneres’ performance as Dory, and the focus on socially-relevant issues.
THUMBS DOWN? I had to wait 13 years for this film to be made and released.