Monday, July 4, 2016

We Found Dory! - A Spoiler-Free Movie Review

By Rebekah Coley

Since the long-awaited sequel to Finding Nemo was announced back in 2013, millions of Disney fans have been waiting with bated breath for its release. True, the movie is already proving to be a financial success, but how is it truly measuring up to the original? And to be fair, what sequel could measure up to a movie that wasn’t just a raging success, but has become an ingrained aspect of American pop culture? Check out our spoiler-free review of Finding Dory to hear what contributing writer, Rebekah Coley, has to say regarding THE anticipated film of the summer...

I was not an enthusiastic fan of Finding Nemo when it was released. Honestly, I blame this on the fact that this movie came out when I was in junior high. At that uncomfortable age, I was embarrassed by the humor directed at small children, yet not experienced enough to appreciate the heart of the plot. After seeing the complete movie as an adult, I was blown away by the score, animation, and relatable struggle between a child and a helicopter parent. Finally, I was able to understand what had been captivating my fellow Disney/Pixar fans with such vigor.

As you can imagine, I was thrilled to hear that a sequel would be on its way, but I was also (rightfully) cautious. Pixar has an interesting history with sequels. First of all, we can’t discount the fact that (despite the tumultuous film production), Pixar proved that a well-executed sequel could exist when they released Toy Story 2 in 1999. (Yes, this movie was released when Disney was still mass-producing straight-to-video, flimsy animated sequels, but I digress.) Following Toy Story 3 (which is arguably the greatest movie that has ever been produced), Cars 2 was released in 2011 - the only true blunder in Pixar history. This less-than-stellar streak continued as they released the prequel Monsters University in 2013. Despite the wry humor, the film is pleasant but also, a bit forgettable. You can understand my hesitation.

So where does Finding Dory fall into this equation? Teed up by possibly the most precious Pixar short ever, Piper, Finding Dory is undoubtedly a crowd pleaser. (But seriously folks, Piper is so cute you may need to restrain yourself from getting up and trying to hug the screen.) Directed again by the creative mind behind Finding Nemo, Andrew Stanton, I have to agree with the conclusions my fellow writers have made. Finding Dory is a delight, but is not made of the same groundbreaking material as Finding Nemo. Admittedly, I had doubts that an entire movie could ride on a joke that was only spectacular because of its subtle delivery. That being said, this movie still deserves a spot in the “exceptional sequel” category.

As it is alluded to in the previews, this feature focuses on Dory as a main character and her journey to remember and find her family.  We are reintroduced to the famous blue tang, who, although she is much more stable with the support of Marlin and Nemo, still feels somewhat incomplete and lonely. Mirroring Nemo’s rebellion from the first movie, Dory becomes separated from her friends and finds herself in an aquarium/rehabilitation center for fish, “The Jewel of Morro Bay, California.” During her adventure there, she meets and is assisted by several new side characters including Hank the octopus, Destiny the whale shark, Bailey the beluga whale, and a pair of sluggish seals. Ultimately, Dory’s journey takes a turn where she isn’t just looking for her family, but she is discovering herself.

Next, let’s talk about the new names on the roster. Although characters from the original make cameos, Marlin and Nemo are the only returning members with significant roles in the story. Personally, this is one of the reasons that I think I’ll always give the Toy Story sequels a slightly higher ranking. Due to the fact that every movie in the Toy Story franchise focused on the characters sticking together, every sequel had ”the gang is back” warmth. This particular type of warmth is missing from Finding Dory. That is not to say that the new characters don’t work very well. They absolutely do. Even if I’m not positive they will have more screen time in the future, they are all lovable and full of quotable one-liners. Hank especially (voiced by Ed O’Neil) is the gruff “jewel” of the Morro Bay cast. He makes for an excellent new grouchy counterpart to the ever-optimistic Dory. I’m a complete sucker for unlikely friendship pairings, and Hank and Dory’s relationship develops in a way that is equally touching as it is amusing. (Also, the animators clearly had a good time thinking of new and unexpected ways that Hank could blend into his various surroundings.)

Supported by a backdrop of life-like Pixar animation, Thomas Newman provides another plaintive musical score that plays homage to the original while still owning a refreshed theme.

The greatest gem of the film though, is Ellen DeGeneres, who is swimming back into our hearts as Dory. For a character that gained fame and fortune through ridiculous antics, Dory actually turns out to be a wise and well-rounded title character. Piggy-backing off of the first movie, she embellishes on her philosophy that if you don’t learn to embrace the day and let life happen, then you aren’t living. This heartwarming “trust your gut” message, coupled with enough adult humor to keep parents entertained, makes for a very satisfying film. Even Marlin and Nemo develop as characters via this philosophy as Marlin still has to resist his old tendencies and Nemo somewhat resents his father’s lack of faith. All across the board, new and old faces benefit from the friendship of this little fish.

Again, this movie may not be on the level of Finding Nemo, but I can say with confidence that Finding Dory is still a carefully crafted film that doesn’t exist for the sake of Disney marketing. The dignity of the characters are not compromised, as the audience will watch a story truly worth telling. So (if you haven’t already), make it a point to see Finding Dory in a theater near you.

Just keep swimming.



Rebekah Coley is a Pittsburgh native who has been obsessing over Disney films (and the corporation in general) for her entire life. Starting with a childhood of constantly dressing up in princess costumes, memorizing songs, and watching the newest Disney VHS tapes on repeat, her love and passion for Disney magic has not faded over time.

In addition to loving the most popular Disney movies, Rebekah has a soft spot for underrated works that didn’t receive the same fanfare (e.g. A Goofy Movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, etc.) It is a passion of hers to remind other fans of their existence and excellence.

By day, Rebekah works in professional development and holds a Bachelors degree in Human Resources Management from Point Park University. By night, she performs in community theater musicals, reads and exercises compulsively, and strives to stay on top of any Disney-related news. As a lover of entertainment, Rebekah’s blogs focus on reviewing Disney’s theme park productions, stage adaptations, films, and books.

You can find additional examples of Rebekah’s work on her personal blog-

You can find all of Rebekah's articles here.


  1. Loved it. Personally, I find it best not to compare it to Nemo. Two separate movies, and both tell beautiful stories. :)

  2. I saw it yesterday and really liked it. Hank the octopus stole the show!