Not that Pixar could ever get into a slump, but let’s be honest–the studio’s last three movies have hardly been the stuff of legend. Monsters University felt like a bit of a cash grab, I’ll freely admit that I was not in the majority of people who thought Inside Out was super-awesome, and The Good Dinosaur may have been PIxar’s most meh effort yet.
So trepidation weighed heavy as I sat down to watch Finding Dory.
Within ten minutes, though, it evaporated. Not only is it Pixar’s best effort in five or six years, it might actually be better than Finding Nemo. (Blasphemy, I know. But there it is.)
After an adorable prologue, Dory picks up a year after its predecessor’s events. Nemo (Hayden Rolence) and Marlin (Albert Brooks) are back home, and Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) is living next door. The whole time, though, she can’t shake the nagging feeling that she’s forgetting something (due to that pesky short term “remembery loss”). That “something” turns out to be her parents, giving Dory all the motivation she needs to trek across the ocean to find ma and pa blue tang.
The search leads Dory, Nemo, and Marlin to the California Marine Life Institute, where they meet a gaggle of new characters, including a whale shark (Kaitlin Olson), beluga (Ty Burrell), and seven-legged octopus (septo-pus?) named Hank (Ed O’Neill). Once there, the requisite Pixar hijinks ensue (most of which are laugh-out-loud-worthy), along with a health dose of bona fide emotions.
Director Andrew Stanton (and co-director Angus MacLane) took great care to make sure Dory was not another so-so effort from Pixar. From little moments (like the comic relief of sea lions Rudder and Fluke) to big sequences (including the slo-mo finale, set to Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”), there’s precious little in Finding Dory that doesn’t squarely find its mark. And Stanton’s screenplay (co-written by Victoria Strouse) is a winner, too, with not only some of the best comedy of any Pixar movie but a surprising amount of heart, too. Even when Dory’s forgetfulness gets this close to becoming tedious, Stanton wisely moves on and takes the story in a whole other direction.
It’s DeGeneres, however, who is the captain of the ship, and her performance almost single-handedly makes the film worth repeat viewings. Her comic timing is just as spot-on as ever, and being the focal point allows her to really spread her wings (er, fins?) and breathe some fresh life into the character.
There’s plenty of everything in Finding Dory, from humor to action to drama, and it’s a welcome gift not only to the under-ten crowd but for parents, too. Though Pixar may have fumbled a little in recent years, they seem to have found their sea legs again.
And whatever you do, don’t leave early; not only are the credits themselves entertaining, there’s a well-worth-it post-credits scene.