Note: I was provided admission to a screening of this film for this review.
All opinions stated are my own.
Well, hello there! It’s time for another edition of Dad’s Diaper Bag Confessions, guest posts brought to you by the male contributory arm of The Diaper Bag Confessions. In this post, I’ll share with you my SPOILER-FREE review of Disney Pixar’s Finding Dory.
I know many of you want to know the answers to a couple big questions. So, channeling my day job where I often have to take big complex situations and summarize into straight-forward executive summaries, here’s what I think most of you want to know:
- Is this movie good = YES
- Is this a proper sequel to the excellent Disney Pixar classic “Finding Nemo” = YES
- Will my kids enjoy this movie = YES
Okay, now that you know the big points, let’s dig into this big list of “YES” Or is it.. “Nope! Nope! Nope! Nope!” (not a spoiler per-se, just an inside joke you’ll be in-on after you see the film) 🙂
Is this movie good?
Oh man is this movie good. Disney Pixar has been knocking hits out of the park for a long time now, so we all know to expect some level of greatness with every release. But for me some Pixar animated films are great, some are amazing, and some are epic. Finding Dory fits somewhere between amazing and epic!
Finding Dory has all the components of the best Pixar films… Captivating story? You got it. Witty and hilarious one-liners? Absolutely. In fact, it’s taking all my being to not quote them all here! I guarantee when you exit the theater though, you’ll be exclaiming all the silly character-defining lines that are running through my head as I type this!
Finding Dory carries forward the Pixar tradition of top-notch voice talent, welcoming Ellen DeGeneres (“The Ellen DeGeneres Show”) and Albert Brooks (“This is 40”) back to the sea as favorite fish Dory and Marlin. Joining the crew for this sequel includes Ed O’Neill (“Modern Family”), who lends his voice to “septopus” Hank, Kaitlin Olson (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) who voices whale shark Destiny, and Ty Burrell (“Modern Family”) voicing beluga whale Bailey. Portraying Dory’s parents Charlie and Jenny are Eugene Levy (“Schitt’s Creek”) and Diane Keaton (“Love the Coopers”). And while the story takes place not long after the events of Finding Nemo, we are talking 13 real-life years later. So we welcome 12-year-old Hayden Rolence (“Beta Persei”) who stepped in to help bring Nemo to life. And each of these characters, new and old, animate on-screen with such realism and intrigue, where you can see the hard work of Pixar’s many animation teams pay off in a great way for the entire cast on-screen!
Is this a proper Finding Dory sequel?
This is what I am pretty sure most of us are watching for, at least among us who were old enough in 2003 to appreciate the depth of Finding Nemo’s heart-wrenching story (see what I did there? Ocean deep joke… Anyway..). I was more than relieved as the story unfolded, where we pick up not long after Finding Nemo left off. This time, the focus turns to our favorite Blue Tang Fish, in an epic adventure where she endeavors to find her family – and as an effect, herself. Finding Nemo was a heartstring-pulling, family-appreciating, family adventure whose story stands today as one of the most memorable among any animated film to-date. It would take an equally warming tale to truly do justice to Finding Nemo’s great storyline, and Finding Dory certainly EXCEEDS this standard. It unashamedly structures as a true sequel to Finding Nemo, even though the spotlight is truly for Dory this time around. Because it isn’t afraid to acknowledge itself as a sequel, Pixar was clearly focused on making it the best darn sequel that could be made for Nemo. It succeeds in answering so many questions in the Finding Nemo universe about Dory, even several questions I’ll bet you didn’t even knew you wanted to know about her!
Another thing that was big to me as a Finding Nemo and general Pixar fan, I was curious to see how they would handle the major advancements in digital animation between 2003 and 2016. The untrained eye might not have taken any notice, but because digital animation has evolved SO MUCH in the past decade I truly believe many of us would notice if Pixar had simply done one of two very-valid options: Maintain a 2003-like animation quality & style to closely resemble what Finding Nemo looked like… Or just go all-in and acknowledge it’s 2016, and animate the sequel as such. I really believe the problem with the latter is that, whether we know it up-front or not, making a sequel 13 years later look as much better as animated movies in 2016 look, will take away from the plot that is supposed to occur not long after the original story.
Instead, Pixar appears to do something pretty magical (as Disney movies do) where they blend an animation style that mimics very much what Finding Nemo looked like, but with just enough added detail that is possible in today’s standards to make you not feel like you’re just watching a decade-old film. But then, there are several scenes, particularly outside open ocean waters, that pull us in with so much fine detail and quality even more than the best digitally animated films of today – all while somehow blending back-and-forth without feeling like any of this is going on! I may be overthinking this, but I will say however they did it, they managed to pull off managing the risk of an animated sequel nearly a decade-and-a-half later.. Both in story and in technical advancement!
Will my kids like this movie?
I get the idea behind it, but I am surprised to hear a lot of people out there wondering if anyone as a kid after the 90’s or so, those who were old enough to understand Finding Nemo when it came out, would even enjoy this movie. All I should have to say is a quick reminder that this is a Disney Pixar movie after all – you know they’ll all love it! Will they get every joke or reference if they’ve never heard Dory “just keep swimming”? No, but that won’t stop them from appreciating Dory’s innocent lovability! Plus, this film is full of new characters, such as the “septopus” Hank, whale shark Destiny, and beluga whale Bailey – all those fun new characters stand on their own in this story! We took our youngest two (of 4) boys to see this movie, at the ages of 2 and 4 that I can guarantee were not around when the original came out! Sure, they have seen Finding Nemo at on home video, but at 2 and 4 even if they saw Nemo in theaters at first, Finding Dory would have been just as new to them regardless. This is truly a film for nostalgic Nemo fans to appreciate in parallel to the next generation of Dory fans to join in!
I agree with this so much that I’m sharing with you here a few free printable Finding Dory activities for your littles – enjoy!
So again – You’ll love this movie. Your kids will love this movie. And it more than just did Finding Nemo justice… It gives us a new love and appreciation for Dory’s story that we’ll be referencing for years to come!
Oh, and about the Short
I can’t leave this without a quick comment about the short film featured before Finding Dory. The short — “Piper” – touched my heart and visually fascinated me ALMOST to the fault of distracting my mind for the first couple minutes transitioning into the main attraction. Among my favorite Pixar shorts to date, including For the Birds, La Luna, The Blue Umbrella, and last year’s Lava… Piper is my new top fav. It’s beyond adorable, but what really did it for me was the incredible realism. I couldn’t help but think of how we continue to push the envelope of something artificial looking so real to the extent that you start to lose that clear definition/difference between what’s real and what’s not. There’s something about the ruffles in Piper’s feathers, the bubbles in the water, the sand… Oh the sand… until the birds started making faces in that anthropomorphic way I had to genuinely ask myself whether I was watching animation or video footage, and even then it was subtler unrealism as opposed to say, human-like in Zootopia (also a great film in a different way)! We’ve come a long way, and Disney Pixar is leading the path to the future of our animated entertainment.
And this isn’t a one-off masterpiece – some of these advanced techniques are clearly applied in the great animation we see in Finding Dory itself! I also saw this and Finding Dory in 3D – While Dory looked great in 3D (echolocation Oooh’s coming at ya!), Piper was truly the first animated film in some time that I truly recommend seeing in 3D! The last animation that utilized 3D this effectively was Walt Disney Animation’s “Get a Horse!”. So while most films these days I would suggest saving a few bucks and watching in traditional 2-dimensions, if you’re even somewhat considering it – go watch both “Piper” and “Finding Dory” in 3D!
FINDING DORY is now playing in theaters everywhere!
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