Movie Review: Finding Dory | Giant Fire Breathing Robot

Movie Review: Finding Dory

finding-dory-xlargePixar hasn’t had a spotless track record with sequels. It’s not that the venerable animation studio can’t make a tremendous sequel—Toy Story 3 might just be the best movie in the franchise—but, when attempting to stack up to the usual quality of a Pixar film, it’s easy to fall short of greatness. So we find ourselves looking at Finding Dory, a sequel to one of the best Pixar movies, Finding Nemo. Finding Dory has an uphill climb right from the word go with it being a story about Dory, one of the weaker aspects of the original film.

Finding Dory takes place a year after the adventure in the original Finding Nemo, with Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) living with Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence). The forgetful Dory begins to remember some things about her life prior to meeting Marlin, and decides to begin a search for her parents which leads to some wacky adventures in and around a Northern California aquarium and marine life research center.

The story is slight. It’s one of the weaker aspects of the film because, while Finding Dory isn’t an exact replication of the plot from Finding Nemo, it come comes pretty damned close. Dory is split up from Marlin and Nemo and goes on an adventure with Ed O’Neill’s Hank (a cantankerous Octopus) and occasionally receiving help from Ty Burrell and Kaitlin Olson as the aquarium’s whales, while Marlin and Nemo search for her. It’s an inverse from the original film, but super similar. The big difference is that Dory is squarely the main character here as opposed to being a supporting character like she was in the original. As such, the bulk of the narrative is focused on her and not the fish searching for her.

I didn’t care for Dory in the original film, and I had apprehension with the character headlining a film. But, Dory’s doofiness isn’t really a problem. The script is a little vague on how much Dory can remember at any given time and while this is a bit of a plot hole, it does make Dory’s starring role a little more palatable. But, the film never feels like it needs to exist, it never feels like there is a good enough reason to tell this story. The entire conceit of the film is to actually find Dory’s parents, but it all feels way too coincidental to the wacky hijinks the gang gets up to. We get to see Dory’s parents in flashback form throughout the story (and baby Dory is just too cute in these scenes), but that doesn’t make up for how little I felt once Dory actually (in a confluence of events that felt weird and forced) met her parents.

Not to mention the weird narrative reset button the script hits with Marlin. Within fifteen minutes Marlin is back to being the antagonistic dick that he was when he and Dory first met. It feels weird for Pixar to ignore all the change Marlin went through in the original film just to have a reason for Marlin to learn something again. It’s especially weird when you consider that he’s been living with Dory for a year and should be able to understand and handle Dory’s condition.

Those gripes aside, Finding Dory is colorful and fun. Kids will love it for sure. Despite my pessimism regarding the similarities in the structure of the film, I have to laud Pixar for not leaning into the known Finding Nemo characters too much (Crush, Squirt, and Mr. Ray are really the only large call backs to the original). The new characters are charming, and the voice acting is top notch. Plus Idris Elba is a haughty sea lion…who is kind of a jerk, BUT IT’S IDRIS ELBA AS A SEA LION! Ellen DeGeneres absolutely kills it with her voice performance as well.

But, then there’s the ending which feels more like a Dreamworks animated film than a Pixar film. The movie comes to a perfectly fine ending point only to continue for another pointless and cliche ten minutes before culminating in a slow motion sequence that I feel like I’ve seen a hundred times before.

Finding Dory isn’t the unmitigated disaster that I’d assumed it would be. It’s not a bad film, it’s just not especially great either. It’s definitely top of the bottom tier of Pixar work. With a resume as varied and diverse as Pixar’s not every movie is going to be a home run, but Finding Dory doesn’t breathe the same air as Finding Nemo.

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