Director(s): Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane
Starring: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brookes, Ed O’Neill (all voice)
‘Finding Dory’ is the latest feature to enter the ranks of the beloved Pixar animation studios. In fact, I believe if Pixar’s name gets slapped on anything (except maybe another Cars sequel), I will go see it and it will probably go down in that year as one of the “top movies of the year”. And while they have many great animated classics in their filmography, including some of my personal favorites (Up, Ratatouille, all of the Toy Story films, Wall-e, The Incredibles…you get the point), they have finally decided to jump on the sequel bandwagon and start turning their great films into products. On Pixar’s slate of upcoming films, three of their four next movies coming out are sequels; so much for the originality of Pixar. If from this tone of writing, you deduced that the latest picture, ‘Finding Dory’, was not my favorite, then you are right.
But, on a happier note, the preceding short for the film, ‘Piper’, was astonishingly good. The animation for the beach that it is set in was so realistic, I thought it was a production company photo. This short was great to look at. Story-wise, I found it to be a tad too sappy, but it was fun, and I have no real issues with it. So maybe just pop in to a screening of ‘Finding Dory’ for that?
Now, on a sadder note, ‘Finding Dory’ was just a plain and simple “okay” film. If you want to actually see ‘Finding Dory’ – which I’m going to outright say isn’t a problem – please know that I’m not hating on this movie, I just feel it is getting overhyped. Best not to have ‘Finding Nemo’ in mind when you see this one though, because they basically copy the plot beats and add a few new details. The original is, as is often the case, way, way better; in copying the plot beats, they didn’t hit as hard as their previous work.
The emotional aspect too, feels forced, which is something I thought I would never say about a Pixar movie. New characters introduced are hit-and-miss, especially Ty Burrell’s Beluga whale, and Bailey and Kaitlin Olson’s whale shark, Destiny. The characters themselves are pretty one-dimensional and have one joke that lasts their entire screen time. It’s simply not the kind of writing I expect from Pixar at this point, because I feel like they should know better. They had 13 years to do something and they ultimately just copied themselves. I will give them credit for letting Dory and Marlin (Albert Brookes) not get stale; they have enough good moments to feel fresh and worthy of being in the sequel. As for other characters, Pixar did a good job hiding them in trailers, so I won’t give too much away, but the ones voiced by Idris Elba and Dominic West were easily my favorite. They weren’t exactly the most original, but they were hilarious.
As for characters and plot points, the entirety of the script isn’t anywhere near as good as it should be. I mean, this is Pixar. They are the kings of original and heartfelt stories. In ‘Finding Nemo’, the conflict was heart-breaking because a dad gets his son stolen from him, and he has to travel a path far greater than one he has ever known in his sheltered existence. In this new film, Dory wants to see her parents again because she forgot them and now she remembers, so we get a little “meet the parents” moment which I won’t spoil, but it’s very predictable.
Which brings me to my next point – the animation. The setup in ‘Finding Nemo’ builds all of this freedom to animate and design a whole world, that is earthly yet still mysterious. Here, they put all of our characters in an easy to manage, bland environment. The coolest thing they have going on is an octopus, and that’s really it for spectacle. I still think it’s really cool how they do the whole underwater stuff, but come on, they did that in 2003; it’s not groundbreaking anymore. And sure you can say it doesn’t need to be groundbreaking, it just needs to look good. Well, they did that, but that’s about it. It’s like Pixar was thinking, let’s just do good. Great was not what they went for, and so it was not what they got.
Pixar still has my heart. They have my childhood. I will be a Pixar fanboy for as long as I live. However, their entire foundation was built on originality with emotion, awe-inspiring animation, and great characters. This movie is a rehash of these, with nothing new to contribute. It’s still good, but nowhere near great.