I hadn’t seen Finding Nemo as soon it was released back in 2003 and it wasn’t until a good five or six years after that (maybe more) until I had finally seen the film in full. It was a wonderful movie but I didn’t remember much beyond the fact that everyone was quoting it ALL the time. Still, I just remember it being a slam-dunk for Pixar (I know… big surprise…) and that I eagerly anticipated their next animated offering. When I heard about the release of the sequel, I was intrigued and pretty excited for it but honestly a little bit skeptical. It’s not to say that I was skeptical of a sequel in general but rather I was weary of a sequel starring one of its side characters as the main one. They did that same thing with Minions (and Lord knows I will NEVER watch that abomination) but then again, Ellen DeGeneres was one of the major highlights of Finding Nemo so I was hoping they would make like a good sequel and flesh out her character. Boy oh boy, was I ever right!
While our first story involved a clownfish named Marlin (Albert Brooks) searching for his young son, Nemo, with the help of a forgetful companion named Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), this film centers more on Dory and her quest to find her parents based on the memory fragments that she still has of them. This ends up taking them to a facility that rehabilitates fish before returning them back home where we meet a colourful cast of characters including a surly octopus named Hank (Ed O’Neil), a helpful pair of whales (Kaitlin Olson & Ty Burrell) and a wacked-out bird named Becky.
First of all, the voice work is stellar much like the original film. Albert Brooks does not play the lead this time as Marlin but still has a lot of screen time and his voice carries a sort of stern sweetness that definitely transcends through the character. Hayden Rolence does the voice of Nemo. The kid doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page but he does a good enough job even if he isn’t a very big part of the story this time. Ellen DeGeneres is wonderful here once again and has a lot more character depth than you would expect in this one thanks to the way her character is written this time. We get a lot more background on Dory and her family life and that helps us to identify with her more as a main character. That is the difference between this and a film like Minions. In this one, they’ve written more into the character; in Minions, they just stuck the secondary characters in the lead role. Kaitlin Olson’s appearance is very funny because I’m so used to her playing Sweet Dee on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia that it is truly jarring to hear her play such a sweet-tempered character like the whale she portrays in the film. She is quite good though as is Ty Burrell as a formerly-concussed Beluga whale who uses his echolocation to his advantage. Ed O’Neil was everyone’s favourite curmudgeon back in the 90s on Married…with Children and he does a similar thing here but it’s dialed-down and he’s much more likeable as Hank. Great voice cast from Pixar once again!
The story was one thing that I mentioned earlier and I wanted to elaborate a bit on that. While this film is a sequel and definitely feels like one, it was still made with a huge air of freshness and it never feels like it’s retreading old material. They’ve built onto the source material but expanded their storyline and also by skipping the journey this time (which was the whole point of the previous film), we take a different route in this installment where we are actually exploring a marine conservation center rather than the entire ocean. It is a smaller setting but for Dory to find her parents, she still has to use the help of others and her own little memory tricks. The fact that Dory has short-term memory loss is another thing I wanted to mention because in the original film it is mostly there as a funny character trait whereas in this film it is definitely used for humour as well but it also gives some pathos to the character and at times it is somewhat sad that Dory suffers from this in a way but also pretty heartwarming to see what things she does remember most.
It is a very funny movie and like all Pixar films, there is a good mix of humour for children and adults. There is one joke in particular in which a certain celebrity plays themselves in a way you will not expect and it gets a good laugh, especially when some of the characters address her by name. There are some funny jokes revolving around Dory’s memory loss and also some good physical stuff with Hank camouflaging himself into his surroundings. And then there is Becky. Oh, Becky. She got some of the biggest laughs from the audience. Becky is an insane bird that responds to a weird sound by Marlin and gets laughs merely from her appearance on-screen. Becky doesn’t speak or anything; she’s one of those animals in animated films that remains silent while the others talk and it makes her seem even wilder.
It’s a wonderful family film that everyone will enjoy a great deal. I don’t know if it was better or worse than Finding Nemo but it’s another terrific time at the movies.
* (Brutal; the worst rating)
** (Some elements keep it from being awful but still not very good)
*** (Completely watchable; a rental as old-timers might say)
**** (Great film with a few things here and there keeping it from being perfect)
***** (Flawless; a true achievement)