Finding Dory Review
Sequels are a bitch. It don't matter which studio they hail from.
While I have enjoyed a grand number of movies under the Pixar banner, I find their sequels to be lacking. This blows me away that the same studio who delivered "Toy Story," the best trilogy of all time, also gave us "Monster's University" and "Cars 2." There seems to be a lackluster quality to their sequels, and for a studio that has set the standard for American animation never seems to nail the sequel. I used to love the prospect of a "Incredibles 2," now I am not so sure.
With that said, I feel finding "Finding Dory" is a step in the right direction as far as Pixar sequels go. We are at the height of American animation and just looking up at "Finding Dory" feels like a childlike fever dream. The visuals will make you reminisce just how amazing it was to view this underwater world over ten years ago. The movie is quite charming, featuring laugh-out-loud moments as well as plenty of tearful moments. If Pixar can do anything right, they know how to tug on your heart-strings. The opening moments of Dory losing her parents for the first time and spending an unknown amount of time trying to find them is brutally sad. Some of the most heart-wrenching imagery Pixar has conjured so far. The studio loves to play with your emotions and it does so in equal measure.
But the thing is, did "Finding Dory" really need to be made? Did any type of sequel to "Finding Nemo" need to be made? Could Pixar really catching lightning in a bottle twice with a hide and seek premise? Do we really need to sit through Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) splitting from her new friends Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolance)? I hate sounding overly-critical and down on a animated movie, and speaking as just a general movie-goer, "Finding Dory" definitely delivers. But as somebody who has appreciated the entire catalog of Pixar films, "Finding Dory" just feels like going through the motions. What made the "Toy Story" films so unique was that each chapter set up a different scenario for the toys, and even though each lesson wound up being about how the toys needed to be there for Andy, the toys grew in a different ways, they matured, they learned something new. I don't think anybody can say that the "Toy Story" films tread water, but I think you can say that of "Finding Dory."
I think the cardinal sin that "Finding Dory" commits is that so much of the film takes place in a Marine Life Institute, not the ocean. The underwater world is part of what made "Finding Nemo" what it was. I feel like the studio was challenged by making "Finding Nemo," because we really never had a movie take place completely underwater in such a rich, detailed manner. The biggest drawing point to a "Finding Nemo" sequel is missing for roughly 87% of the movie. Part of the reason I wanted to see this movie so badly was to be engulfed in that underwater world once again, and I was wholeheartedly disappointing to learn I wasn't going to spend much time there. I feel I would be equally disappointed if Batman just didn't keep Gotham City safe for an entire movie.
Nothing can beat the delightful charm of DeGeneres, Brooks or Rolance though. They are faithfully supported by a host of wonderful actors. This includes Idris Elba, Ed O'Neill, Diane Keaton, Ty Burrell, Eugene Levy, Kaitlin Olsen, Bill Hader, Allison Jenney, Stephen Root and Sigourney Weaver. The film is something you should see in theaters, just so you can witness those beautiful animations on a big screen, its just what those animations represent that personally rubs me wrong. I wish we could have got another adventure completely underwater, and I wish these fish had a little more to do.
I think my expectations for Pixar sequels maybe a little more wavered moving forward. They can still dish out exceptional original content (see "Inside Out"), but for some reason, they never do much with their sequels. I figured the promise with "Toy Story" would lead somewhere, and so far it has not. Maybe Pixar should remain a "one and done" studio, because their stand-alone films are always breathtaking for several reasons. Or maybe they need to spend more time putting these sequels together. Whatever the case, "Finding Dory" is a family-pleaser, lovely to look at, but definitely Pixar-Light when it comes to comparing it to their other filmography.
FINAL GRADE: B