With the exception of the “Cars” franchise, Pixar themselves are the exceptions to the usual law of diminishing returns which normally plagues sequels. However, in landing a sequel to “Finding Nemo”, a perfect story which really needed no follow-up would Pixar flounder or would the carping prove bass-less?
A year after Nemo safely returned to the reef, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) has a sudden epiphany as a memory of her parents resurfaces. Without thinking, she rushes off to try and find them, leaving Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence) to try and catch up with her and bring her home again. Meanwhile, Dory has found her way to the Marine Life Institute where she was born and together with Hank the ‘septapus’ must find her way back to the open ocean once more.
One of the secret, subtle triumphs of “Finding Nemo” was in its championing of disability, featuring as it did two key characters with disabilities without ever needing to make a big deal of it. Their challenges and adaptations were woven seamlessly into the narrative and were merely an aspect of the characters rather than their defining ability. “Finding Dory” is bolder in this regard without ever becoming pushy and it’s a little astonishing and enormously heart-warming to see a character with a learning disability take centre stage, have agency and be the heroine instead of being relegated to the background as a point of sympathy or dependency.
But then nobody tells stories like Pixar tells stories and their genius is in pushing these stale old boundaries in ways we don’t really realise while we’re watching. There’s so much attention to detail and rich texture to both the visuals and the characters that their secondary characteristics are just that: additional detail, not broad stereotypes.
“Finding Dory” may stretch the concept of fish interacting with the human world almost to breaking point at times (if you were sceptical about fish ambulating in tied plastic bags, you’re not going to take well to them managing to drive a truck, even with the help of an amputee octopus) but the characters (old and new) are just so much fun to be around that you don’t really mind the flights of fancy. It’s not a story that needed to be told, but I’m glad they found a story worth telling. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed spending time with Dory and her friends until I was reunited with them.