By: Muneeb Arshid
When anyone sits down to compile a list of the best animations of all time or the best Pixar animations, Finding Nemo is a classic that everyone regards as one of their favourites. This is one of the reasons as to why audiences actually wanted a spin-off based on one of the most endearing characters from the film. 13 years later, we finally get that spin-off, appropriately named Finding Dory.
A year on from its predecessor, Finding Dory is the story of Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres), the endearing Pacific regal blue tang suffering from short-term memory loss who goes in search of her parents after having a moment of remembrance of her family. As was the case in Finding Nemo, Finding Dory is ripe with an amazing voice cast which introduces characters new and old. First, the old, where we have Albert Brooks voicing Marlin and Hayden Rolence voicing the enthusiastic Nemo. The cast is enriched with a wonderful supporting cast as was the case with the previous film. Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton play Dory’s parents, Charlie and Jenny respectively. Idris Elba lends his glorious voice as Fluke the sea lion along with his buddy Rudder, voiced by Dominic West. As was the case with the first movie, Nemo enlists or is forced to enlist the help of a group of aquarium fish to make his escape back to the open ocean. This time, Dory meets an octopus named Hank (voiced by Ed O’Neill) who, through an elaborate scheme, helps Dory eventually reach the ocean and make it back to her family and friends. Now, if you were thinking that the plot is starting to sound very similar to the 2003 classic, that’s because it can be seen as being quite similar.
However, just because the plot may be similar to that of its predecessor, it doesn’t mean that the film loses any its enjoyment. There are enough moments throughout the film that remind you of why we came to love this group of fish and their adventures. What has worked in Finding Nemo and most other Pixar Studio films is that they tend to have a great underlying message which ultimately resonates with the viewers. Finding Nemo explores how tough parenthood can be when raising a child on your own and, more importantly, it explored that issue from both sides of the coin. Dory, while having the same overlying plot of having to find a member of the “family”, focuses on an issue that is geared towards a more 2016 crowd, essentially finding out the meaning of life. Dory focuses on how fish or people should not conform to how other people think of them; rather, they should focus on being themselves and never give up. The whole conceit with Dory from Nemo was that she was this forgetful fish mostly used for comedic moments and didn’t really provide for any powerful “message” moments. However, with the geniuses over at Pixar having control once again, it was out of the question that, even though the concept may initially sound silly, they would be the ones to come up with a powerful message for its sequel.
One place that we definitely do see an improvement is the animation of the film which shows how much of an improvement has been made from 2003 to 2016 in this industry. We saw a beautiful glimpse of the near photo-real cinematography in last year’s disappointment, The Good Dinosaur. The Good Dinosaur showed us how beautiful terrestrial land would look in a range of environments, but failed to show us what the underwater world would be like. That is where Finding Dory takes its place, and even though the elements are very similar to Finding Nemo, there is a sense of sharpness to the animation that gives it that photo-real sensibility while maintaining the more cartoony nature of the original film. In a way, it’s another film that reconfirms that Pixar, while having their own style, absolutely are the kings in producing the most consistently beautiful films while having a wonderful underlying story. This is something that only Studio Ghibli could be considered an equal in.
Finally, I would be amiss to not mention the beautifully, endearing short film at the beginning of this film. As with all Pixar animation films, the studio always includes a short film, which for the most part get nominated in their respective category at the Oscars. Last year was Sanjay’s Super Team released with The Good Dinosaur. Piper is the Pixar short included with Finding Dory. It is the story of a baby sandpiper learning to overcome aquaphobia or the fear of water. Sandpiper flocks hunt for food at the ocean in between incoming waves and they must be able to dodge these waves. The baby sandpiper in focus leaves the nest for the first time and while hunting, is overcome by a wave and develops a fear of water. The story is essentially about someone learning to overcome their fear, in this case, their fear of water, but it could be applied to many different cases and how once overcoming this fear, can lead to refound confidence which overcomes the anxiety associated with a phobia. Piper is beautifully gorgeous to look at, and a story that members of all ages will find extremely charming.
While I would have given Finding Nemo a score above 9.0 if I were to review it, Finding Dory does not reach that benchmark. Even though the film was immensely enjoyable, I could not shake the feeling that I was watching this film for the second time within a week (I had seen Finding Nemo within the week). When it comes to comparing sequels, however, I would say that it is one of the better sequels of any genre of film, and Pixar has a lot of experience with stellar sequels, notably having made 3 great Toy Story films. Despite how much I enjoyed this, I would still prefer Finding Nemo for being bold and innovative for its time. Hence, I am inclined to only give Finding Dory a grade of B (8.0/10).