Pixar knocks it out of the park with ‘Finding Dory’

Andrew Shermoen

Pixar has another smash hit on its hands.

Not long after the events of “Finding Nemo,” Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) begins to have flashbacks of her childhood and remembers that she was separated from her family long ago. She requests the help of Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence) to go to California and search for her parents. When she is captured and put in marine institute, she seeks the help of several new friends to find her family and escape captivity.

One of director Andrew Stanton’s gutsiest choices in “Finding Dory” was taking Dory’s humorous memory loss quirk from “Finding Nemo” and portraying it as a serious, humanizing disability. It turns Dory into a fully realized character, making her a likeable and strong protagonist without removing any of her comedic charm. What makes the film so strong is the positive message it makes about dealing with disability, a message that fits neatly into the narrative and matures the franchise.

The greatest strength of “Finding Dory” was its central characters. DeGeneres breathes new life into Dory, making her a sympathetic character because of her disorder, but still being incredibly funny. The jokes involving Dory focus less on poking fun at her memory, instead moving focus to how inherently silly and genuinely fun she is to be around.

The new characters in the film are fantastic too. Hank, a belligerent octopus voiced by Ed O’Neill is a perfect side character to Dory. He is the antithesis to Dory’s constant optimism, and his character is well fleshed out enough to still be a joy on screen. His grumpy attitude usually comes off as humorous, but when his temper gets the best of him his words can break your heart. The growth he experiences during his time with Dory made him one of the most interesting characters in Pixar’s massive line-up. Not to mention how difficult he must have been to animate, which looks flawless on the big screen.

Ty Burrell’s character Bailey is a beluga whale that is as excitable as he is neurotic, meaning every moment with him is an absolute riot. Eugene Levy and Diane Lane also work perfect as Dory’s parents, whose love for Dory adds to the heartbreak of their separation. Their patience, love and support in regards to handling Dory’s disability is both admirable and inspiring. The only characters who fall flat, surprisingly, are Marlin and Nemo. The loving father and son duo that held “Finding Nemo” together are unfortunately pushed too far to the side in this movie to make their subplot as interesting as Dory’s.

The action almost never stops in this movie, moving from one set piece to another smoothly. The very well paced, but its narrative structure feels too jumpy at times. This is a small qualm, though, because it finds ways to marry the dynamics between new and old characters in ways that make the movie undeniably fun and engrossing.

The film’s rendering of water and its varied locations are colorful and look gorgeously life-like. The animation style Pixar used back in 2003 with “Finding Nemo” still holds up today with some updates. Hank’s character design in particular is one of the biggest challenges Pixar has ever taken on. Just the one scene introducing Hank to the cast took Pixar two years to animate, which is impressive when you see the final product.

Pixar has created another masterpiece. A film that breathes new life into the animation genre, and tests the limits of the medium. A story filled to the brim with lovable characters and a great message about dealing with disability and finding strength in your shortcomings. “Finding Dory” jumps to the top of Pixar’s already numerous successes.

Rating: 4.5/5