[Before I begin I will discuss some parental advice that has been discussed amongst the adoption and care community. Without going into too much detail (as I do not want to spoil it) the film provides a powerful plot regarding the pain of family loss and Dory desperately wanting to find her birth parents. The distress this can cause on children is not always obvious. I would advise you to read this article if you think there’s a chance this could upset your children before going to watch the film.]
Ah, Finding Nemo. It’s easy to forget that the classic came out in 2003 isn’t it? (Excuse the Dory pun). It makes you wonder with the countless pointless sequels that come out in all their manufactured glory that nothing seemed to be on its way to follow up the ocean epic. Maybe the studios had learned their lesson (Ice Age, anyone?) and decided not to touch something that did not really need disturbing. Remember Toy Story 2? Of course you do. It’s really hard to figure out why Toy Story 3 came out 11 years later, and luckily for them it was a success. Now there is a quiet whisper in the wind regarding Toy Story 4 (oh no, please do not blemish it!). Well, Finding Dory follows on 13 years later and you get the feeling that they pondered on how the storyline should form compared to its predecessor for a long time.
Finding Nemo pulls at the heart strings because an over-possessive father Marlin (Albert Brooks) loses his only son Nemo (Alexander Gould/Hayden Rolence) in disastrous events, and it is heart wrenching. The premise is as the title suggests and the adventure recommences there. Finding Dory is different. Although there is a journey of Marlin and Nemo trying to find Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) this film is more about Dory finding herself, her past, her family – and that is the heart string it pulls. As you should be well aware, Dory has short-term memory loss and it is one of the comical elements of both films. You never really find out how Dory ends up bumping into Marlin, and then rescuing Nemo. All you know is that she turns up and her short term memory loss serves as a hindrance, but she as a person provides a benefit to the mission. In the sequel, Dory has a lightbulb moment and remembers she has lost her parents. The question poised on everyone’s lips is: does the sequel work?
To quickly answer: yes, it does. Firstly, what the story does right at the start, right in the first act, is manage to merge both films together. You get a disappointing feeling before it begins that you are going to be watching a film that tries to think of an elaborate story that is disjointed and divergent from its predecessor, but this, despite the 13-year gap, feels like a smooth continuation of the story. Why? Because straight away the story explains how & why Dory bumps into Marlin right at the start of Finding Nemo, from her perspective. This moment is not just nostalgic but an intelligent film ploy to bring you back into the narrative that you fell in love with the first time. Secondly, the story melts you with cuteness as it explores Dory’s past as a little child. You instantly smile and go “aww” when baby Dory enters the screen. Finally, the story is sad and thought-provoking.
Saddened by the fact that Dory lost her parents without remembering how and thought-provoking because you do wonder how an earth she is going to succeed in this mission to find her parents with such constant, severe memory loss.
It doesn’t feel that 13 years has passed between both films, and whether or not there was hesitation by Pixar and Disney to withhold the sequel until they felt the story was right to continue, we will never know, but they have managed to create the narrative without killing its selling point. The selling point is a good family feel story about sea life in the ocean with various different characters portraying different traits. And they continue that approach in Finding Dory by using animal traits to reflect a personality that is funny to the audience. They did not upgrade the animation or create an overly crazy storyline – they kept it simple and used what worked in the original to create a decent sequel. The film does not make you laugh as much as the original, but it continuously makes you feel amused and engaged. There were a lot of children in the cinema when I went to go see it, and near the end about half of them were off their seat gawping at the screen. Surely that is a good sign?
Second question: is it better than Finding Nemo? On principle, no. Finding Nemo was an original that captured audiences whether young or old, and merged them together to provide a distinctively brilliant ocean story whereas Finding Dory just goes deeper into the narrative, so you know much more about the history and where the group of fish ends up. This is not a story of finding someone, it’s a story about self-discovery and the title misleads you to believe that Dory is missing. In a sense she is, she is missing her true home. The reason why the animation looks more or less the same is because they did not need to change much – Finding Nemo did an honourable job with it. The reason why they made a healthy continuation to the first film is because they did not need to change the story drastically – Finding Nemo did a good job with that as well. Can you see the pattern here? Finding Dory was up against a powerful predecessor; the key was not to try to better it (because that provides risk of ruining it) but using what worked to continue the story. It was never going to be better, but that doesn’t mean it cannot be as good.
No matter what age you are I am sure you’ll enjoy this sequel and it does not matter whether you watched Finding Nemo as an adult or as a child. Nothing has really changed. You will love it.
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Daniel Hart is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has operated as Editor-in-Chief since 2017.