My friend Sigourney once said: rescue, rehabilitate, release.
I think it’s safe to say that Pixar has entered their third phase. There was the first phase, which was super-long, where they just kept turning out the masterpieces; then came phase two where they . . . just didn’t for a while. But with Inside Out and now this incredibly strong follow-up to one of their best films, they’ve established that they’re back in the masterpiece business. In this movie, Dory, once again brilliantly given life by Ellen DeGeneres’ fantastic vocal performance, sets out to find her family and its really interesting to see them kind of pull apart Dory’s memory problems and deal with them in a serious way. In the first film, I feel like they were mainly used for comedic effect, but this movie really kind of digs into how hard life has been for Dory with these issues. Albert Brooks is once again great as Marlin, bringing even more world-weariness than he did before. Ed O’Neill is brilliant as Hank, a scheming octopus. Kaitlin Olson and Ty Burrell really land their parts perfectly as a partially blind whale shark and a concussed beluga whale. And a mention for Sloane Murray who is really perfect as Baby Dory. Should I mention that one of the major themes of this movie seems to be the ability of those with physical disabilities to be heroic? Anyway, I really loved this movie. It does a really good job at making you feel the peril and vulnerability of these characters and the expansive ness of their environments. I would need to watch the original again to make a judgment call about which is better, but I’ll say that I think this movie is every bit as good as the original. It’s often hilariously funny and also quite poignant, if not downright sad, but also visually beautiful and, toward the end, incredibly suspenseful. This one really got to me; rollicking, entertaining, hilarious, touching, beautiful and all of this movie flows out of the characters who are deeply human, for all their fishiness. It’s a brilliant movie and one that I’ll openly admit I was very skeptical of. Inside Out, after all, could have just been a one-off fluke and sequels are always dicey, even when Pixar’s doing them. But this succeeds beyond my best hopes. It’s a brilliant sequel and a brilliant film in its own right. Pixar’s back, baby. 4 stars.
tl;dr – engaging sequel is every bit as good as the first film, with great performances, direction and story; hilarious and touching by turns, this one signals that Pixar’s back in business. 4 stars.