Without a doubt, Pixar is always on their game. Even if the product sucks (Cars, Cars 2) it still makes a million billion dollars. Finding Dory is the sequel no one expected, thirteen years after the original swam into all our hearts. It’s an odd choice to make the sidekick become the lead. But judging by the first weekend’s box office haul, Pixar is mighty happy with the decision.
This time around, we’re back in bikini bottom. I mean the Great Barrier Reef. Nemo, Marlin, and Dory live together in relative happiness, even if Dory’s forgetfulness is still the butt of many jokes and the cause of many headaches. But, through a series of flashbacks that reveal important meanings, Dory remembers that she has a family, and she’s desperate to find them. Nemo and Marlin end up joining, helping Dory find her long lost parents.
It’s quite sad, how Dory got lost. It really is. Especially when the animators made baby Dory literally the cutest thing on the planet. Dory slowly remembers her way back to her home and of course, they meet several colorful characters along the way. There’s old heroes like Crush the turtle, and new ones like Hank the Septopus and Destiny the Whale Shark. Oh, and a kind-of cameo by Sigourney Weaver.
Finding Nemo was heart wrenching and original in a way we as an audience hadn’t really experienced before. The journey was arduous. The stakes were high. The ocean felt like a death trap. Finding Dory throws all that out and goes way into kid’s movie territory. Which is fair, because it is a kid’s movie. There’s a random giant squid, thrown in for some sort of thrill. Unlike the sharks or the angler fish in the first film, it didn’t feel like part of the movie. Just a cheap grab for a jump scare.
It’s just so…. cut down. The movie lacks plotting or pacing. It’s discovered that Dory is originally from the Marine Life Institute in California. (Which, sadly, means she wandered away from her parents and swam the entire Pacific Ocean before she runs into Marlin). We know the original film takes place entirely in Australia. As soon as they hear California, Marlin just calls up Crush and they take the Deus Ex water tunnel to Monterrey. I’ll say it again, the fish travel 7,000+ miles in 2 minutes of screen time. Chris, is this too nitpicky for a children’s movie? No. Because Finding Nemo established a realistic world where things like that couldn’t happen.
There’s other problems. One is a screenwriting issue. Hank the Septopus has a turning point when Dory gets him out of a hairy situation. But Hank clearly got them out of the situation. His feelings were completely unfounded. It annoyed me. It’s a clear oversight of believable character development. It all felt a bit rushed. And if the movie ended where I thought it was going to, I would’ve been very disappointed. But Pixar doesn’t always take the easy way out, and kept it going for another twenty minutes, thankfully.
Don’t worry, there are good parts of the movie as well. Seals with British accents. A touch tank from the perspective of the starfish and sea cucumbers inside. (It’s a horror movie for them, enduring all those children’s hands. Which, ironically, means the film was saying that kids are horrible, as I sat in a movie theater full of kids who probably didn’t get it.) Ed O’Neil as Hank, Ty Burrell as a Beluga Whale who rediscovers his sonar ability. There’s fun to be had all around. And it wouldn’t be a Pixar movie if the animation wasn’t so top notch it feels real.
The message of the movie is that anyone can do anything. They just need to work hard at it. And it doesn’t hurt to have good friends nearby. It’s a decent enough film, especially for kids. But in comparison to Finding Nemo, it’s a bit of a let down. The child in you will still have fun, though.
2 1/2 out of 4 stars.
P.S. Holy crap, the sand detail in the opening short is nothing short of miraculous.