Directors: Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane
Runtime: 97 minutes
Cast: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Hayden Rolence, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Idris Elba, Bill Hader, Dominic West, Sigourney Weaver, et al…
Plot (taken from IMDb): The friendly but forgetful blue tang fish begins a search for her long-lost parents, and everyone learns a few things about the real meaning of family along the way.
Please note, I originally wrote this review for Pan and Scan, which can be found here.
Pixar have been on something of a mini-revival. Last year saw the release of the fantastic Inside Out as well as The Good Dinosaur, which was pretty good. Before then, the legendary animation house had produced subpar sequels and prequels for a couple of years, tarnishing their image somewhat. Roll back to before 2011 however, and Pixar are still on top of the animation world. Year after year was hit after hit for Pixar, each film making a strong claim as being the studio’s best. Finding Nemo was one such film.
Widely celebrated for its emotionally charged plot, fantastic visuals and hilarious writing, Finding Nemo was Pixar at their best. Fast-forward ten years and we see the release of its much-anticipated sequel, Finding Dory. Set just a year after the original, Finding Dory tells us the tale of Dory looking for her parents who, in brilliantly realised flashbacks, she loses. Dory jumps from leading lady to main character in a tale very much about her, a move that largely doesn’t work.
It all starts off promisingly. We are shown little Dory, who is as cute as she is funny. She’s struggled with short-term memory loss from a young age, and we get to see how her long-suffering parents cope with her affliction – through love and care, mostly. These scenes are touching and provide the film with strong moments throughout. They add another layer to Dory’s character and give the film some emotional depth. Emotional depth that, sadly, the rest of the film lacks.
The film wants you to care about what’s going on, but there’s a feeling throughout that you’ve seen it all before. We all know what kind of films Pixar make, and that might be the biggest issue with Finding Dory. It all feels the same. It’s made worse by the fact that this is a sequel. We know what the returning characters are like and to an extent, what they’ll say in any given situation. Take Marlin and Nemo for example. They both return, but their roles have been reduced by the move to Dory as main character. Both add little of any merit to the film. They tag along for the ride, occasionally making some needless remark. It’s poor writing and both characters, for the most part, seem shoehorned in for the sake of it.
For the most part, too, Finding Dory feels shoehorned into the cinema. It doesn’t add anything of any note to Pixar’s fine history and feels like a step down from both of their releases last year. It lacks the emotional punch of Inside Out and even The Good Dinosaur, whilst also missing out on the originality of the two. You feel like you know what’s going to happen in the end whilst watching Finding Dory, so it makes it difficult to form any kind of bond or emotional attachment to Dory. What I wanted to happen, didn’t, and what I thought might happen, did. It was all a tad underwhelming. At least we got to visit new places, with some pretty hilarious results.
Along the journey, we meet some great new characters. Newcomers Hank (Ed O’Neill) and Fluke (Idris Elba) are great new additions to the Pixar family tree. Hank (the octopus, or septopus) steals the show. He adds excitement and a good layer of fun to an otherwise shallow movie. The film becomes something of a stealth piece once he is introduced, with some very smart situations and gorgeous animation ensuing. However, he is pipped to the post as best character by the sea lions. Led by Idris Elba’s Fluke, these loud, lazy creatures are wonderful. They’re as good a comedy creation as the vegetarian sharks in the original. The standout moments in an otherwise uninteresting film.
Not all the newcomers are great however. Bailey (Ty Burrell) and Destiny (Kaitlin Olson) are more annoying than endearing. I was meant to care for them, as they both have defects that hinder them, but I couldn’t wait for them to get off the screen. They were both loud, obnoxious and like something out of the films vying (and failing, miserably) to win Pixar’s crown back in the day. They both provide more signs that the once invincible Pixar is susceptible to damage. Not everything they make is gold anymore, but Finding Dory doesn’t quite manage bronze.
Finding Dory almost finds Pixar at their lowest ebb. It’s unimaginative, lacking in emotional depth and at times, is poorly written. We never needed this film. It’s not all bad however, with thanks to some tactful flashbacks, an octopus that adds fun to the film along with some lazy, but helpful sea lions. Thanks to these characters and several exciting as well as funny moments, Finding Dory is nowhere near Pixar at their worst, but nor is it close to Pixar at their best.