Like Hindi cinema, Hollywood’s fascination with lost and found themes is unending…whether literally, or figuratively when characters go on cathartic journeys to ‘discover’ themselves. Finding Dory, sequel to Pixar’s gorgeous, emotional classic Finding Nemo falls somewhere in between. Dory, the Blue Tang fish with a short-term memory problem does get lost, and clownfish father-son Marlon and Nemo have to find her. But Dory is also looking for her lost identity here and searching for home.
Is Finding Dory the visual sucker-punch that Nemo was 13 years ago? No, but it is a solid sequel – the film has its share of teary moments, there are many hilarious characters, and some dazzling animation on display. All of this makes up for the fact that the film feels overlong and has an unmistakable been-there-seen-that quality to it.
Kooky amnesiac Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) finds herself remembering flashes of a childhood spent with her loving parents (Eugene Levy & Diane Keaton), and sets off all the way across the ocean to California’s Marine Life Institute to find them. When her friends Marlon (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence) lose her, we watch two parallel sets of misadventures. Dory gets help from Hank (Ed O’Neill), a cranky scene-stealing octopus who has incredible camouflage powers. Meanwhile, Marlon and Nemo rely on the kindness of two cockney-voiced sea lions (Idris Elba and Dominic West) and a madly eccentric bird named Becky. A near-sighted whale shark Destiny and her Beluga whale pal Bailey (Ty Burrell) regularly step up to help Dory navigate her way out of danger. And there’s also Sigourney Weaver, making a terrific voice-only cameo as herself.
This being Pixar, we get multiple subliminal messages delivered over the course of the film – that you can dare to be different, how not to let your disability stand in your way, and that friends can be your family. Director Andrew Stanton, who also helmed Finding Nemo, does a great job conveying these themes and ideas, but Finding Dory also gets sucked into the sameness of the scenarios that dominated the earlier film.
Ellen DeGeneres is once again the heart of the film as Dory. Her scatterbrained ramblings sound a little old when the film opens, but she flies (literally!) as the story progresses. As for Hank, the moody octopus, he deserves his own spin-off movie – somebody make that happen! I’m going with three out of five for Finding Dory. It’s sweet and consistently funny, but never breaks new ground.