|'Whether this is a story which needs to be told or not - the perpetual question asked of sequels - becomes largely irrelevant thanks to both the characters which populate it and the emotional depth at its core'.|
There's a tendency amongst those who choose to evalualuate Pixar's back catalogue to blame the end of the studio's "golden era" (although when exactly that ended is never clearly defined) on a shift towards making sequels rather than original features. It's an argument which initially seems to hold some weight: from the release of Toy Story 3 in 2010 to Pixar's latest, Finding Dory, four of the studio's seven films have indeed been sequels.
When you look closer, however, the case begins to fall apart. Whilst never quite reaching the same level as the original films, both Toy Story 3 and Monsters University are both excellent. Cars 2, Pixar's first real dud, offered a continuation of a property which was undoubtedly the studio's weakest to begin with. Inside Out, arguably the best Pixar offering during the period, may not be a sequel, but The Good Dinosaur (which I apparently liked more than most) never quite managed to escape its production troubles, and Brave felt far too safe and "Disneyfied" to stand alongside the studio's very best.
All of which brings us to Finding Dory, the sequel to Finding Nemo which proves once again that Pixar can undoubtedly do worthwhile sequels. Whether this is a story which needs to be told or not - the perpetual question asked of sequels - becomes largely irrelevant thanks to both the characters which populate it and the emotional depth at its core.
Structurally, Finding Dory follows the lead of Finding Nemo, opting for a simple story told episodically which means the sequel struggles in the same way as the original to find the narrative depth of Pixar's very best. Despite this, however, the story becomes satisfyingly rounded through its sincere message of overcoming adversity. Dory's (Ellen DeGeneres) short term memory loss is transformed from its largely humorous execution in the first film to a heartfelt exploration of how to deal with disability, and the flashbacks to her early life with parents Charlie (Eugene Levy) and Jenny (Diane Keaton) offer a genuinely touching representation of raising a child with learning difficulties.
Outside of Dory, Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence), the returning characters are for the most part welcome cameos, only a couple of which feel surplus to requirements. It's in the new faces where the film finds greater success however, most prominently through octopus Hank (Ed O'Neill) who emerges as the film's strongest and deepest character. O'Neill's vocal work is understated perfection, recalling Ned Beatty's Lotso from Toy Story 3, and the superb animation which brings him to life shrewdly harks back to the physical humour of Tex Avery cartoons. The greatest boon, however, comes from Hank's relationship with Dory, which ultimately eclipses her friendship with Marlin as the franchise's most entertaining and profound odd couple.