It has been a frankly alarming thirteen years since Pixar took us under the sea for Finding Nemo. Anticipation was high for the fifth film from the CG studio, and Nemo went onto be a huge hit, with Pixar’s biggest worldwide gross, only since exceeded by Toy Story 3.
Pure business sense meant that a sequel was all but inevitable, so Finding Dory is here. And it’s even better than the original.
The set up this time is pretty simple- Dory wants to find out where she’s from but that’s complicated by her serious memory problems. That means it's time for another undersea adventure, as she heads off with Nemo and Marlin in tow, meeting all manner of new creatures along the way.
This gives Pixar plenty of opportunities for silly characters doing silly things in pursuit of a laugh from the audience, and those minor moments still make up the bulk of Dory. Coupled with the rather slight story, this could have easily been a serviceable sequel that went through the necessary paces and was instantly forgettable.
Instead, it’s one of the studios more effective features, and that’s all down to the treatment of the character of Dory.
As voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, Dory was introduced in the 2003 film as broad comic relief, encouraging audiences to giggle at her memory issues in the background while we focussed on Albert Brooks’ Marlin and his struggles to find the last remaining part of his family.
Now, Dory is the main character and with that comes the most remarkable shift. Instead of laughing at her expense, Dory’s memory becomes a source of personal pain, merging with the loss of her parents to create a flawed and damaged character.
If that sounds dark, don’t worry as it’s handled with the usual deft touch of Pixar and layered with comedy, drama and more comedy, but the sentiment is there. This is a film that deals essentially with mental illness, with a character who finds herself unable to handle a task like finding her parents.
But it goes even further beyond that, by showing how Dory, and any of us, can overcome the difficulties we face in life- even if we carry these problems around with us everyday as a part of our psychology.
It’s a powerful message, wrapped up in a finely crafted film with gorgeous, near photo-real visuals and one of Thomas Newman’s most memorable scores. Also Ed O’Neill is hilarious as a grumpy octopus. Go see it.