Finding Dory is a treasure of a movie, the kind of sequel Pixar hasn’t been able to push out since Toy Story 2 back in 1999. Don’t misunderstand, though; Dory is not as good as the second Toy Story , but it’s easily the best Pixar sequel outside of that particular trilogy.
Picking up a year after the events of Finding Nemo , this film (from returning director and longtime Pixar genius Andrew Stanton) takes us on a mesmerizing adventure through the depths of the ocean as Dory attempts to find her family, only managing to get lost in the process. Along for the journey is Marlin, Nemo, and Hank, an octopus that, by the end, will be one of your favorite Pixar characters ever.
Going in, I wasn’t excited. I’ve seen Finding Nemo dozens of times (literally), and even though it has a great rewatchability factor and the most popular characters of Pixar’s lineup, I don’t think it’s top-tier Pixar. A terrific film, for sure, but it fails to live up to the likes of Ratatouille or, say, The Incredibles . The trailers for Pixar’s latest failed to intrigue me, causing me to erroneously assume this may be more of a cash-grab than I anticipated.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Mostly everything in Finding Dory worked for me. It’s a beautiful movie about family, loss, and, yes, mental health. In ways, this feels like one of Pixar’s darkest films, with the themes sometimes getting in the way of the traditional brightness that accompanies these movies. Somehow, Dory also feels like one of Pixar’s most adventurous. It’s a terrific ride from start to finish that barely ever lets up (despite a few slow moments in which the pace dwindles, only to pick right back up), with lots of involving action and really funny character beats.
What I found mostly surprising about the film is that it barely ever felt too much like its predecessor. Sure, there’s a similar element to a fish getting lost and Marlin having to find her, but what makes Dory so good is that we know that even when Dory is found, something comes after. We’re waiting for her to find her family, and that’s always lurking in the background as she discovers a facility on land managed by a certain someone that I won’t dare spoil in this review (seriously, when this person announces herself I lost my shit. It’s so, so funny).
But really, this is a moving movie. It packs an emotional punch. “Just keep swimming” is no longer a fun and cute singalong phrase; it’s a heartbreaking remnant of better times. Clamshells will make you cry. I’m serious. This movie knew which buttons to push.
I’m going to be “that guy” and brace for the hate mail, because I’m going to say that I liked Finding Dory more than Finding Nemo . I think it has great supporting characters (the seals are laugh-out-loud hilarious), a wonderful story, gorgeous animation, the best octopus we’ve ever seen in a movie, and wait until you get a load of baby Dory. I had tears streaming down my face after a mere three minutes of seeing her eyes/hearing her innocence. It’s something for the ages.
Judging by the reviews I’ve read thus far, I seem to be alone on this, and that’s okay. It certainly isn’t top-five Pixar or anything, but I called it a triumph on Twitter because I think it’s just that. It gets pretty much everything right, and on more levels than the first. I cried multiple times, and I hope you do too.
It’s a wonderful film.
(And be sure to stay for the after-credits if you want some, uh, closure. No spoilers, but it’s really good stuff.)