Arielrocks5’s review published on Letterboxd:
Well! I'll be damned!
Here I was thinking that I just growing out of Pixar, since I've been left with nothing but disappointment in their last few efforts ("Inside Out", "The Good Dinosaur", etc) and what with the very idea of a follow up to one of my favorite films of all time was already a tip off to lack of creative ideas under the hood.
Yet for a film that practically has no real reason to exist, "Finding Dory" is not just probably my biggest surprise of the year, it might be my favorite effort from the studio in recent memory (no pun intended), with a surprising amount of thematic depth and character weight to keep it above the mindless rehash I thought it was going to be upon hearing its announcement.
As to be expected, the film focuses on Dory. This time, set one year after the events of the original adventure, she starts to have memories of figures that seem to resemble her. One hit to the head later and soon she realizes that she has a past. And a family! And that there somewhere out there. So now it's another journey across the! Oh wait, they're already at the place they need to be.......huh. That was quick. Okay so Dory gets captured and held hostage right? Actually, no. She, escapes rather quickly thanks to an Octopus named Hank and now the two of them are finding her parents with the help of some other fish who happen to share some mental and physical disorders as well.
So it's basically "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" meets "Memento". But with fish. Really, what's not to like about that?
What helps is that it does enough familiar to keep it true to the original source it came from, but it also does a fair enough of its own to truly make it stand out when compared to the original masterwork. Andrew Stanton can't recreate the same amount of epic emotion and landscaping that the original offered, and he seems to be well aware of that, picking a rather light and contended approach to telling Dory's story.
Since a good 90% of the film takes place within the Aquarium, it gives Stanton and crew a good sense of narrative focus on the central narrative of her finding her parents, while also bringing in new characters to play around with rather than simply bringing back the entire cast from the original. Which was really surprising.
It's just an added bonus that most of the new cast are wonderfully varied not just in terms of how they're written into the story and used to help move it alone, but in terms of character animation. Hank might be one of Pixar's finest pieces of animation they've created. The way he moves throughout each scene and camouflages with the environment is really worth the price of admission alone.
Plus you have the lovely amount of detail put into background characters, set designs, and what not which make the habitat around these characters and how they explore it feel all the more alive.
Granted, I do think some of the lighting in this was a bit too bright in areas (Particularly some outside shot above the Ocean) along with the color contrast, but thankfully the animation is still stunning, but really? That's probably a given.
Stanton, Strouse, and Peterson's screenplay packs a nice amount of clever humor to contrast with the surprising amount of rather intense themes dealing with mental illnesses and disabilities, family, trust, and all that good stuff, along packing the typical Pixar emotional gut punch that had me crying so hard you would think it would be odd for a teenager in a theater full of children to do so. (Spoilers: I did feel as weird as you would expect).
But unlike something like say, "Inside Out", I never felt like I was being FORCED to feel these emotions for the sake of keeping it from being all colorful fish and witty jokes. It felt more genuine thanks to Stanton being one hell of a good visual storyteller, using elements introduced throughout the film to help back this up, and of course, having a main character to root for more than anything. Didn't help that I've been going through a bit of a rough patch relating to my own parents which made it even harder to watch so that's always a plus! (P.S: FUCK YOU ANDREW STANTON!)
The climax as well is worth mentioning as probably one of Pixar's best in a long while. Combining really clever visual humor, some great music by the always incredible Thomas Newman (Who's score here is wonderful, combining thrilling pieces along with the touching ones perfectly as usual), and combining a lot of previous story elements to tie everything up in a rather nice bow in the end.
Voice work by the entire cast is great as well. I forgot how much I missed Albert Brooks dry wit and perfect sarcasm as Marlin. Plus you have the two stand outs of Ellen DeGeneres and Ed O'Neil making the most they can with what their given (Which is already pretty well done), and the attentions of small roles for the likes of Idris Elba (In his third Disney movie in a row this year), Kate McKinnon and Bill Harder in the first few minutes, and a certain celebrity I won't name for the sake of not ruining a really well timed joke, are just the icing on the cake.
As far as issues go, I do admit, the first act is pretty much a quick run by of most of the stuff that was done in the original, along with the fact that some plot points are more predictable than others, and if you're one who has gotten sick of Pixar's usual formula of storytelling tropes, then you'll probably hate this as much as I expected to.
But, that's, really about it honestly. I, had a really great time with this.....
I have to admit, I was really dreading this. Not because it looked bad, but because I thought I would end up having the same distaste I had for their other recent works and would end up being the same outsider I was with "Inside Out". Well thankfully, I was dead wrong.
"Finding Dory" may not be as much as a masterclass of cinema as the original, but it's still a damn great time for those who want to jump back into the ocean to swim with these characters once again.
So Pixar, you now have my attention once again! Tell me, what's your next project!?
*Sees it's "Cars 3"* *Gets noose out*
Time to meet god.