I’ve especially been more critical of Pixar ever since the post-Toy Story 3 days but after a bump back up with Inside Out, it seems they drop down once again by bringing us The Good Dinosaur. Initially I was skeptical of Finding Dory particularly because I have a close attachment with Finding Nemo (it was the first film which I saw in theaters when I was very young), but I was never sure it was the material I would have expected a sequel for. On some level, Finding Dory did prove me wrong but on another, I’m not exactly convinced that Pixar’s track record will ever find itself hitting back to the roots of arguably their most consistent period of quality. It may not be up to par, but considering where they have landed in more recent times, it is a nice bump back up.
Finding Dory takes place one year after the events of Finding Nemo, now with Dory and her short-term memory loss (a running gag in the first film) forming the flow of the storyline. This idea here opens for something interesting about Dory, at least now that we have a backstory being introduced. It’s interesting to see how Pixar chooses to go on about with what made Dory the character whom she was in Finding Nemo and what eventually led to the encounter between her and Marlin – but after the greatness that comes in from at least explaining Dory in the first act, it seems as if everything begins fading more and more as the film goes on. That’s not to say it faded enough to make everything less than fun, but knowing how much Pixar managed to create with Finding Nemo, the results of Finding Dory turn out to be to some extent, disappointing.
There’s a degree of greatness that comes about at least with the humour and the animation in regards to Finding Dory. It’s a fun ride at least while it is lasting and the animation as always is absolutely stunning. It’s rather easy to praise these aspects especially when we are to talk of what Pixar is going to provide on the screen, because even though these films are kids’ films at heart, the reason as to why they have created so many beloved films is because Pixar does not restrict their audience only to children, especially when it comes to how they hit the emotional beats from the relationships between their characters (something which Finding Nemo did rather excellently and in some areas is done rather well by Finding Dory). While they certainly hit wherever they land, something about Finding Dory ultimately feels more like a slog compared to Pixar’s usual.
What may be the biggest flaw to Finding Dory is how noticeably the plot threads are much similar to those of Finding Nemo (Dory getting taken away by a human, new gang of characters coming to the aid of Dory to plan an escape, Marlin and Nemo encountering several other characters to help with the search, etc.). Generally, I don’t mind predictability in family films, but the moment I call out how similar the movement between the original film and a supposed sequel feels is clearly not a good sign. Once in a while you are to get more flashbacks from Dory as she regains her memory searching for her family, but on a narrative perspective, it’s rather easy to say how Finding Dory is just the same film as its predecessor, and outside of a few fresh characters, a much less interesting take at that.
Something I tend to love about Pixar is the way to which they form the relationships between their mismatched lead characters (calling back to the times of Marlin and Dory in Finding Nemo) because the bonds which come about are usually rather fascinating results. What I don’t love about Finding Dory for its similar movement to the original is how because Finding Nemodetailed Marlin’s growing progress of accepting challenges along his way and Nemo’s discovery of independence, Finding Dorynever really feels like it has all that much development for its own characters outside of Dory, whose short term memory quirk ultimately becomes a plot device. While I guess I can understand how there’s some sort of an allegory for a special needs child being created (which I can appreciate), I wish that it could have been more developed at that.
I don’t wish to sound rather negative in tone because at least if there’s something that did keep me enjoying Finding Dory as it went along, it was Dory herself. She may not be as great of a protagonist as Marlin was in Finding Nemo but at least when she’s still in the spotlight, she creates the sense of energy that this film needed in order to keep it from being thoroughly boring. The voice cast as always is wonderful, and while Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks are certainly going to come to mind, newcomers like Kaitlin Olson (not so sure how exactly I should feel about Sweet Dee from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia being in a kid’s film but I’ll take it for granted), Idris Elba, and Ed O’Neill certainly keep Finding Dory at a constant flow. What I just wished for was something that could have been much greater, like Pixar had been in their glory days.
One day, I wish that Pixar can come back to their days of quality because there was a point in my life to which I would always watch a Pixar movie with nothing else but high anticipation in theaters, but ever since Cars 2 my enjoyment of their films from there onward has started to wane. I’ll give Finding Dory credit on the count that it certainly is one of their better offerings from recent memory, but the formula feels so noticeable in here and hindered me from loving the final product. Even with that said, there’s still enough to be enjoyed from the energy to which the wonderful cast and beautiful animation leaves behind, but the noticeably predictable plot threads coming in (especially with a heavily out of field climax) hindered what could have, and should have been much more. It’s a good bump up when looking at their recent track record, but not as big the bump that Inside Out was.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Disney/Pixar.
Directed by Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane
Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Victoria Strause
Produced by Lindsey Collins
Starring Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, Eugene Levy, Diane Keaton
Release Year: 2016
Running Time: 97 minutes