Disney/Pixar's Finding Dory finding dory disney pixar ellen

Finding Dory arrives in a summer of underperforming sequels, 13 years after the beloved original Finding Nemo. Animated films go through years of production but Dory comes out as Pixar’s CCO John Lasseter announces the studio will add no further no sequels to their slate and produce more original content. If it is like The Good Dinosaur that might not help but if it is like Inside Out… Since being re-purchased by Disney, Pixar has produced more films of less quality it seems and so Finding Dory arrives with a lot to prove perhaps unfairly.

Disney scared pixar finding dory dory

Such concerns don’t account for the character of Dory (voiced by the talented Ellen DeGeneres)  who is so damn lovable she buys the sequel of a lot of goodwill. For those who may not remember before Ellen became the next Oprah, DeGeneres in 2003 was a failed sitcom star most famous for being a good comedian and the girlfriend of Anne Heche once upon a time. Although it has to be said her hosting of the 53rd Emmy Awards (the first major American show business awards show following September 11, 2001) remains one of the best hosting performances of all time.

Playing Dory was a big gig for her and the beginning of something new in terms of her career. A decade on and DeGeneres returns to the role as if she never left. A fascinating scene-stealing co-lead in the last film, giving Dory her origins and backstory only enhances the character. A throwaway line from ‘Nemo “I’m looking for my family-I think.” is elaborated upon here and creates more heartache and nuance regarding her memory loss. She starts to remember a father Charlie (Eugene Levy) and mother Jenny (Diane Keaton) who loved her and sets off on an adventure to find them (the inverse of the first film’s quest for a parent to find their child).

Disney/Pixar's Finding Dory finding dory dory baby dory disneySome of these flashbacks become more and more heartrending as we see a super cute young Dory remember two parents who wanted her to live a full life and be positive but secretly had their own fears and doubts. People with a disability and their parents will find these scenes particularly resonate. A sequence that reveals the significance of pebbles and sees a reunion of sorts shouldn’t leave a dry eye in the house. It’s the film’s heart and proves Pixar still has what it takes to hold the audience in the palm of their hand.

Yet like all sequels Finding Dory can’t quite measure up to the original. Some characters return from the original only to have less impact than they did the first time around. Two wise decisions are made by the filmmakers but don’t always bear fruit. First while initially setting off together Marlin and Nemo are separated from Dory. This allows us to have a story with Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence) but their story is not as interesting as Marlin & Dory’s or Nemo & Gill’s was and Marlin hurting Dory’s feelings disappoints after the last film’s events. Disney/Pixar's Finding Dory octopus finding doryFaring better is Dory’s story where she goes through a Marine Park facility assisted by local octopus Hank (Ed O’Neil) who is even grouchier than Marlin. Secondly going through the park allows for a new environment and the fish navigate land in some inventive ways as opposed to sticking to the open ocean again. Yet the open ocean was so beautiful in the previous film and as a result this sequel is less spectacular as a result. Although the finale seems rather grand in scale.

Disney/Pixar's Finding Dory disney pixar ellen finding doryDisney/Pixar's Finding Dory finding dory

It seems disingenuous to compare any film to Finding Nemo let alone its sequel which is rather good. Remember that scene though in ‘Nemo where Marlin and Dory went into the deep ocean and the screen went completely blank. I went and saw Finding Nemo with an old high school friend called Rachel who was always good at school and is now an academic. The cinema went completely dark as the screen went blank and silent. Then Marlin was muttering away and Dory called out “Who’s there?! Are you my conscience?” When Rachel really loses it she completely convulses. We both laughed so hard that night, I’ve never forgotten it. Yeah… I don’t remember laughing that hard this time around.

-Lloyd Marken


  1. It would be hard for any film – sequel or otherwise – to stand up to Finding Nemo. Having said that, I think Finding Dory did an admirable job, and I think it was a classic Pixar film, so I disagree with the title of this review (though I agree with much of the content). For me, a Pixar film needs to be as enjoyed by adults as it is beloved by children, and this is captured in all those moments where the adults laugh and the children in the cinema look at them, puzzled, asking why something was funny. Of course the best moments are where the who audience gets to laugh (or cry) together.

    Missing in particular from your review (and in much of what I have read about the film) was an assessment of the treatment of disability in the film. We saw this explored in a range of ways, from Charlie and Jenny’s careful parenting (the climax of Dory’s search as a major example) to the bullying by the seals of another seal, or even the (welcome) lack of discussion around Nemo’s “lucky fin” in the film. I don’t know if Pixar set out to explore society’s treatment of people with disabilities as overtly as they set out to send a message of environmental responsibility or sustainability, but they certainly held a mirror to our collective relationship with disability.

    Having said (written) all that, thank you for your review. I always read them with great interest! Happy watching!

    1. Thank you Kyle for your measured and insightful response. I touched upon what was to me a clear reference to raising a child a with disabilities in Dory’s flashbacks but you have gone further and I appreciate your comment.

  2. I have never made a secret of my dislike for Pixar animation, or the sugary cuteness associated with the films. The marketing of goods aimed at the young viewers is the real reason for these films, and I find them cynical and calculated in the extreme.
    OK, grumpy outburst over.
    If you like them, fair enough. They leave me cold. Give me ‘Dumbo’ every time, and I will leave the rest for younger people to argue about.
    All the best, Lloyd. Pete.

      1. I like the classic hand-drawn cartoons a lot. I also liked Betty Boop, Popeye, the original Tom and Jerry, Barney Bear, and Merrie melodies. Maybe I was too old when Pixar arrived, and it reminds me of those ‘aquarium’ screen savers from years ago. But it’s the merchandising that really hacks me off. Sorry to be an old grump!
        (I am aware that I’m in a minority with this. My wife loves them all!)

      2. Good movies making good money in merchandise is nothing new but there are uncomfortable consequences when say Cars 2 gets greenlit not on the strength of Cars box office but on how much the merch sold. Stars Wars and Transformers films make more money in toys then they do with the films. When you see it from that perspective it really takes your breath away. My whole childhood cartoons were actually advertisements for toys. Yet if I enjoy the film- I enjoy the film. I’ve been wondering lately if I’m just getting too old for current tastes which you may see reflected in some of these reviews. 🙂

  3. Lloyd, another fine review. I thought Finding Nemo to be the funniest, best animation ever. It beats the old stuff and I think it’s a perfect film. It would be very difficult to repeat its greatness in a sequel. Toys to be sold because of the film have been happening for fifty years. I don’t think about it much one way or the other. (Unlike Pete, as I grow older, I’m becoming Switzerland by the minute.) Fortunately, my sons and daughter didn’t go gaga for an action figure of the film they saw. They were into sports and video games. In 1989, they were playing the first PS !

    1. Thanks Cindy, Switzerland is a fine country indeed 🙂 When it comes to Pixar you can’t beat Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Up, Wall-E and the Toy Stories. The opening in Up in particular I think is terrific filmmaking. I’m probably the last generation of action figure kids but we got into video games a bit. My parents got us a Mega Drive for Christmas in 1993. The next year the Super Nintendo came out. You can’t win. 🙂

      1. Because everything we know about life is in that first sequence. When she stops on that hill you can feel the audience react. They’ve been on that hill with someone themselves. We all have.

      2. Yes. You instantly forgive any grumpiness on the part of Mr. Fredricksen. Dory and UP are so much better than Toy Story or Cars or even Monster’s Inc.

  4. I’m probably in a minority in that I somewhat prefer it to FInding Nemo – this is probably attributable to having too a high an expectation going in (for Nemo), and ending up slightly disappointed, while having relatively low expectations for Dory (hoping that it was merely better than Cars). The ending was gloriously over the top, and the film was probably unnecessary, but it acheived things that a good sequel should – expanding on the story and character arcs, by putting characters in somewhat different situations, and allowing them to develop, rather than simply rehashing or fundamentally changing the characters.

    1. Thank you for commenting Mike. As usual you really sum things up so well. I think there were strong creative choices made here for the right reasons but in the end it leads to the film not being as enjoyable. That kind of reaction though usually suggests time and distance will only raise the prestige of this film. I always liked Nemo more. Your favourite was The Incredibles wasn’t it?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s