Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) is a wide-eyed, blue tang fish who suffers from memory loss every 10 seconds or so. The one thing she can remember is that she somehow became separated from her parents Charlie (Eugene Levy) and Jenny (Diane Keaton) as a child. With help from her friends Nemo (Hayden Rolence) and Marlin (Albert Brooks), Dory embarks on an epic adventure to find them. Her journey brings her to the Marine Life Institute, a conservatory that houses diverse ocean species. Dory now knows that her family reunion will only happen if she can save mom and dad from captivity.
If you would like to read my review of Finding Nemo, click here. From the way Finding Nemo ended, a sequel was probably not necessary but here we are nonetheless. Since Ellen DeGeneres’ Dory is one of the most memorable characters animated or not this past millennium (in my opinion), it would make sense to continue this in any way possible. The fact that DeGeneres herself pleaded for a sequel for so long after the release of Finding Nemo also helps.
From what we all saw in Finding Nemo, Dory was a pretty kooky, almost comic relief character but we didn’t really know much about her. That obviously isn’t the case here (the film is called Finding Dory) as we get to learn a lot more about her and her backstory. This allowed us a glimpse of a younger Dory (Sloane Murray) which is one of the cutest things. We also got to meet her parents Charlie (Levy) and Jenny (Keaton). It was evident how much they cared for Dory and Dory for them. After a freak accident, Dory finds herself separated from her parents and thus begins her quest to find her parents. Of course since she suffers from short-term memory loss, over time she forgets more and more about them until she has forgotten them altogether. Into this frantic quest, she runs into Marlin (Brooks) which started to the chain of events which led to Finding Nemo.
The film takes place one year after the events of Finding Nemo where we find Dory, Marlin, and Nemo (Rolence) living together. The three live a pretty normal life with Dory often joining Mr. Ray’s (Bob Peterson) expeditions and often wandering off. One day, memories of her family and parents are triggered, causing her to start missing her parents and wanting to find them. Because Dory has a memory problem, Marlin and Nemo decided to help her by tagging along. The further they go, more of Dory’s memories are triggered, guiding them to her parents. You can expect some sticky situations with Dory involved. There definitely weren’t as many as in Finding Nemo but they were still fun.
Things quickly change when Dory is led by Sigourney Weaver (it makes sense) to a marine institute where she then meets a grumpy octopus named Hank (Ed O’Neil). With Hank scheduled to be released into the sea, he sees Dory as a means to be put somewhere in a tank of his own. He decides to help her find her parents in exchange for a means to go to an aquarium. Hanks starts off helping her begrudgingly but they form a strong bond over time. O’Neil was great here and their scenes were very fun to watch. Along the way, they run into a whale shark named Destiny (Kaitlin Olson) and a beluga whale named Bailey (Ty Burrell). They all were working together in order to help Dory find her parents who may or may not be in the institute. Olson and Burrell were great too and they were fun to watch as well. Both, along with Dory and Hank, had great chemistry which made this part of the film very fun to watch. This all was similar to Finding Nemo’s aquarium subplot from Finding Nemo but this was more compelling since the other side characters here were much more interesting.
While Dory was finding her way through the institute, Marlin and Nemo had to find a way to get to Dory. This allowed Marlin and Nemo to spend some quality bonding time together and after Finding Nemo, this was fun to see. They also had great moments and met some interesting characters of their own along the way, most notably a pair of sea lions named Fluke (Idris Elba) and Rudder (Dominic West). Nemo was a major driving force here, helping Marlin see what Dory meant to them. They emphasized with her feelings about family. Dory helped to bring out their humanity and it was evident how much they cared for and missed her. Whenever they were in a difficult situation, they would ask themselves “What would Dory do?” and they would often find a way out of them.
While a lot of the story was fun and had its little comedic moments, as most animated films do, there was a surprising amount of emotional stuff as well. Ever since Finding Nemo, Dory was already a great character but her internal, personal struggle here was very compelling to watch. Seeing her desperately wanting to find her parents while trying to overcome her memory problems was very compelling to watch because of both the great script and DeGeneres’ great, nuanced vocal performance as Dory, making you care about her. She was able to do make you laugh and make you cry which isn’t easy and is more of a testament to her performance than anything else. While DeGeneres was great in Finding Nemo, she just took things to an even higher level here. While the script really brought out her performance, it was great all around. It was just as good if not better than Finding Nemo’s which was Oscar nominated (I wouldn’t be surprised if this was nominated too).
The film also surprisingly spends a lot of time outside of the water which was interesting to see which speaks more towards the advancements in technology which took the animation here to another level. Finding Nemo looked good then but this is even better with the amount of detail on display here from underwater and all the other locales. Characters looked better as well and their movements looked a lot more fluid, especially Hank with his constant camouflaging and the movements of all his tentacles which would definitely have been hard to do back then. DeGeneres aside, the voice acting was excellent all around with the actors really committing to their roles.
Overall, this film may not have been necessary but I’m glad it was made. Finding Nemo is a classic but this one takes it to a whole new level. This one just made me feel a lot more than most films and that’s something that doesn’t often happen.