Review: Finding Dory
Director: Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane
By Rhys Tarling
Finding Dory will delight its target audience of children under the age of 11 and will intermittently amuse the parents who shelled out money for the tickets. It’s a good enough movie. But as a long-awaited sequel to one of the most beloved animated features of all time and from the studio that gifted us all last year with the shockingly moving Inside Out? Good enough is something of a let down. Finding Dory highlights the perils of being a film studio that churns out classics on the regular.
The film begins as many Pixar films do; ruthlessly plucking your heartstrings. We see Dory as a child — so obviously designed for maximum audience sympathy that she’s basically a floating pair of eyeballs – struggling mightily with her chronic short term memory loss. That recurring gag of Dory’s limited intelligence that so amused us in Finding Nemo is now a source of tragedy. As a result of her mental handicap she loses her parents, and it doesn’t take too long for her to forget them completely. There’s a montage that leads us right to the beginning of Finding Nemo, where she’s constantly asking other fellow sea dwellers for help and finding none.
Just keep swimming, indeed.
One year after the events of Finding Nemo, Dory has found a makeshift family in the form of a physically handicapped fish (Nemo) and Nemo’s emotionally handicapped father Marlin. Some plot convenience or other triggers Dory’s memory of her long gone parents. Marlin and Nemo journey with Dory to find her parents and they go through all sorts of fun yet ridiculous set-pieces that would render them gull-feed a thousand times over if this had even the slightest bearing on reality.
Of course, this is a children’s fantasy movie and not an ocean documentary, so what does it matter how ridiculous it gets? The problem is that by the time the third act arrives the perils and stunts get so out-of-hand and oddly stilted that–despite the amazing visuals–all that can be seen is the crude, almighty hand of the creators willing events to happen in a way that won’t upset anybody in attendance. The magic so present in its predecessor–the tension, the adventure–dissipates like ocean water from a rock on a Summer day. Some of the jokes are fantastic and compensate, at least a little, for the lethargic energy and curious lack of wonder.
The plot is quite a brazen rehash of the first. It’s the kind of story that would hastily be slapped together for the straight-to-DVD sequel two years after the mega hit first film. However the addition of some new characters, particularly Hank (Ed O’Neil), a cantankerous and sneaky octopus, kept things lively enough whereas established characters run around—swim around–the same circles they did in 2003.
In fact, it’s Hank who gets to have quite a touching arc and is a dextrous character who is the clear standout, much like Dory in Finding Nemo. Here’s hoping that, in this case, Pixar has the good sense to leave well enough alone.