Dory may have been the real star of 2003’s Finding Nemo, but the announcement of her own film brought a certain amount of sequel scepticism.
Thankfully, the blue tang with the memory of a goldfish earns every second of screen time she’s given. In a prologue destined to become (almost) as cherished as Up’s, baby Dory proves to be both one of the cutest things in the world, and when she’s searching for her parents, one of the saddest.
Finding Dory needed a powerful story to justify its existence, and returning writer/director Andrew Stanton found one in Dory’s daily struggle through life. Little more than comic relief in the original, here Dory is the film’s heart and soul thanks to an incredible vocal performance from Ellen DeGeneres and a focus on Dory’s disability.
The feelings of loneliness and inadequacy brought on by her short-term memory are incredibly poignant, and Stanton handles the tone brilliantly, getting both sympathy and big laughs from his characters. This is a film that celebrates the ways its characters are different rather than hiding from them.
Finding Dory’s reliance on its lead is also its biggest flaw, with the ensemble sometimes feeling like spare parts. Returning characters (and the plot) duly hit the same notes, while new additions like Hank the octopus impress without ever being truly memorable. Likewise, perhaps the visual achievements of the original have just been taken for granted, but 13 years on nothing about Finding Dory looks that revolutionary.
Disability – or really, any kind of minor impairment – is rarely featured in mainstream cinema, and Finding Dory is at its strongest when exploring these uncharted waters. Whenever Dory and her story are on screen the results are incredible; when she’s not, they’re merely great.
CAST: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Hayden Rolence
DIRECTORS: Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane
WRITERS: Andrew Stanton, Victoria Strouse
SYNOPSIS: The friendly-but-forgetful blue tang fish begins a search for her long-lost parents, with Marlin and Nemo joining her to help.