Like many film cynics, I did not want a sequel to "Finding Nemo." Sequels (especially Disney animated sequels) are historically a low-quality attempt to squeeze more capital out of a successful Disney property. After much skepticism and a complete lack of desire to see this film, I'm glad to admit that I was wrong! "Finding Dory" is a worthy continuation of this beloved story and I am so glad that it happened. That being said, I still prefer the original story. This sequel focuses on the same family and friendship themes that make "Nemo" so heartwarming but I find that a father rescuing his son was a little more effective than a forgetful fish searching for her parents. While there is some merit to the criticism that it is the same basic story as the first one, the film branches off in all of the right directions. The focus on Dory shifts the conflict from “fish vs. ocean” to “fish vs. her brain.” The incorporation of flashbacks, the baby Dory character, and an element of mystery all within the context of an oceanic journey makes the story feel completely unique. Also, instead of being trapped in a small fish tank with four characters, Dory is able to explore an entire marine park with a variety of settings and many new species. The film pays tribute to old favorite characters while focusing on (arguably) better ones. The movie wouldn't have felt right without Crush and Mr. Ray but there is only so much that you can do with those two before it becomes repetitive. Conversely, Hank is a much more dynamic character whose depth of personality and complex visual design opens him up to endless possibilities. He is one of the greatest characters in animation history from a technical perspective. There is a great YouTube video that details the complexity of animating his seven arms with independent movements (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nn0S2vmSCU0) and his erratic movements are fascinating to watch. Hank’s camouflaging abilities serve as a comedic device as well as one more layer of his complexity. In addition to his technical execution, this character is vital to explaining the significance of the orange tag, helping to transport Dory, and the recipient of his own important emotional transformation. He is reason enough to see this film. Other newcomers include the giant crying clam, the sea lions, an over dramatic beluga whale, a nearsighted whale shark, and Becky, the best character in the movie. Each one has their moment to help the main characters in their journey, and you will just love Becky’s moments in the spotlight. The script is very well written (you wouldn’t expect Sigourney Weaver jokes to fit so perfectly into the story) and the seashells got me bad. The writers perfectly set you up for that moment of realization where the puzzle pieces suddenly fit together and you realize how the journey will end. Good luck holding the tears back during this one. The voice actors are perfectly cast to bring this script to life, from those reprising their roles (Ellen and Albert Brooks) to newcomers that create distinctive personalities for their characters (Eugene Levy as Dory’s father, Ty Burrell as Bailey, and of course Ed O’Neill as Hank). The music also plays an important role in the story, from the sting rays’ interesting taste in choral music to Sia's perfect minor rendition of the song Unforgettable. It is the most clever dark remix since Lana del Rey's Once Upon A Dream for “Maleficent." “Finding Dory” has succeeded at capturing the warmth of “Nemo” with a fresh (though similar) story, memorable characters, and second-to-none computer animation that will make you believe that you are actually under water. I truly believe that the quality of Disney and Pixar’s output had made every other animation studio obsolete.
[Pictured: Hank single-handedly proves Pixar's dominance in computer animation]