by David Vicari and Fritz Esker
Fritz: In many ways, Pixar is a victim of their own success. In just a little over 20 years, they've made a remarkable number of films viewed by most to be transcendent all-ages masterpieces (the three Toy Story films, Up, Inside Out, etc.). But when they make a movie that's simply good or entertaining, there seems to be a bit of a backlash. I suspect that will happen with Finding Dory, the sequel to Finding Nemo that I found to be charming and likable even if it's not on par with Pixar's best.
You liked it a bit less than I did. Why is that?
David: By nature sequels clearly don't have the freshness of the original, but the best sequels expand on story and characters. Finding Dory pretty much recycles its predecessor, Finding Nemo. It opens the same with all the little fish kids going to Mr. Ray's sea class, and characters from the original, like the surf dude turtles, make token appearances. Instead of Nemo getting lost, blue tang fish with short-term memory loss, Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres), tries to find her parents since she became lost when she was very young. Clownfish Marlin (voice by Albert Brooks) and his son Nemo (Hayden Rolence) are in hot pursuit to find Dory and bring her back home to safety. Brooks does have a few funny lines, but other than that Nemo and Marlin have little to do.
What did you find so charming about this one?
Fritz: Many elements are recycled, yes. But there's plenty to enjoy. In Finding Nemo, Dory was primarily there for comic relief. But in this one, I do think the film lets you see how painful and alienating her short term memory loss would be. It's a portrayal that children with learning disabilities could really connect to. That part felt fresh to me. I also enjoyed the many disguises of the new octopus character, Hank (voiced by Ed O'Neill). The animation's beautiful, too. I especially liked the evening colors they managed to deploy in the film's finale. It felt like I was really watching sunset/twilight, not just an animated version.
What parts of the film worked for you?
David: I agree that the animation is simply gorgeous and that the Hank character is very funny. Dory and Hank are a good odd couple, but I felt much of their interaction was flatly written. As for Dory, herself, I thought the film only skimmed the surface of the pain her disability is for her, and because of the repetitive nature of the character, I sometimes found her to be annoying instead of lovable. With all that said, the movie is pleasant enough and kids will enjoy it. Finding Dory is lesser Pixar but it's definitely superior to the bland Planes.
Fritz: Yeah, while I don't have children of my own, I take my nieces and nephews to the movies fairly often. Most kids movies are blandly benign mediocrities (like Planes). Even lesser Pixar still has an artistry to it.
As to the skimming the surface point, I think they might have been a little scared to make a kids movie too bleak or sad. Perhaps at the script level, they couldn't find a way to balance the sadness and the humor the way they were able to in Inside Out or Up.