Pixar Animation Studios has a near-perfect track-record as far as quality goes. Half of this review could be spent on me saying that the Toy Story trilogy, Monsters Inc. (2001), Finding Nemo (2003), The Incredibles (2004), WALL-E (2008), Up (2009), and Inside Out (2015) are all great movies that enter into the discussion of best films of all time. When it comes to Pixar, quality is almost inherent. Unfortunately Finding Dory does not enter into that class for me. Outside of the Toy Story sequels, I’ve only been underwhelmed by sequels from Pixar. Finding Dory is not necessarily bad, in fact there’s some moments here and there that are emotional, hilarious, and heartwarming, but for me there are a few problems that may seem like nitpicks to some, but for me became something that distracted me from the story every time they would pop up.
First off, we all have seen Finding Nemo so many times that it’s hard for a sequel to live up to the original. True, but Toy Story 2 (1999) did it, Toy Story 3 (2010) did it. Pixar can do sequels well, the only problem is they have two examples in the positive category and now three in the negative category. For the record, I also didn’t hate Monsters University (2013), but it never intrigued me as much as the orignal, and Cars 2 (2011) is just a wash. Whereas some sequels just copy and paste the story and ideas from the first, Finding Dory takes the same template but puts enough twists and turns and alterations on it to keep it from being boring. While I found some moments of non-action or plot moving taking too long, I was never bored. Let’s go into some positives.
As I said, there are emotional moments of the movie. For me almost every scene involving young Dory, whether they be full scenes or mini flashbacks, worked. The connection between Dory and her parents reflected the relationship that Marlin and Nemo share, except if Coral from the first movie had lived. Three of the new characters worked, Hank, Destiny, and Bailey. Hank in particular became one of the more fascinating supporting characters that Pixar has had in some time, Destiny made me laugh and root for her, and Bailey also has laughs and a rooting factor. We also share this rooting factor, of course, with Dory, both with her dealing with her STML and finding her parents. It does remind me very well of Finding Nemo where we both rooted for Marlin and Dory to find Nemo and also rooted for Nemo and the fish tank crew in the dentist’s office to escape their doom. This is, of course, essential for the movie to work, and if it had been lacking, the movie would have just plain stunk. Of course Pixar knows better than to let us down in this department. In fear of spoilers I won’t mention some of the more heartwarming moments in particular, but there were a couple that brought hope into my heart.
Now to some flaws. Again thinking back to the first film, one thing I never caught onto until seeing Finding Dory was how realistic it was, that is if you discount talking fish. Especially when we compare the final two scenes. Nemo ends with a scene of several hundred fish being caught by deep-sea fishermen and the power of unity keeping them from being eaten. Nothing that totally disobeys the laws of physics or common sense happens in the scene and it feels like a well-rounded ending with the “keep swimming” chant. I won’t say how Dory ends, but I’ll say several laws of physics are broken, several notions come off as unrealistic, and it just felt like a Looney Tunes adaptation. This isn’t necessarily an automatic flaw. Hell, I’m not going to go off criticizing Bugs Bunny cartoons for being unrealistic. The problem is that this is a sequel to Finding Nemo, which set the template for being a story that could actually happen. I never see Finding Dory happening in real life, not even close. This kept coming up from time to time with some plot conveniences, again some of them being spoilers.
Another problem I had is one that I think some audiences will walk away complaining about. Now, I personally think that Pixar had only the best intentions with this, but it’s something that I can see becoming a topic of debate. The movie fully encourages kids and even adults to include the mentally challenged and mentally disabled and that they can do the same things you can, but in different ways. I can’t realistically criticize a movie for doing that, and it’s a great touch. The only problem is two characters in particular repeatedly are used or duped because of their disability. It’s not a spoiler, but Marlin and Nemo get transported around by a loon that is impaired, and it felt as if at times Marlin and some sea lion characters were making fun of the character. The same goes for one other sea lion, who carries with him a small little bucket which must be used at one point. Two sea lions invite him to sit on their rock only so they can steal his bucket then push him off the rock. This sea lion is mentally impaired and while sure it moved the plot forward, it made me feel bad for that character. I wouldn’t be too surprised if some people look on the film negatively because of these scenes, and again I’ll say Pixar and Disney had only the best intentions with these characters and aren’t intending to offend or put off/down any audience members. In fact, I will be a little surprised if nobody else catches this. I mean, if we can have an X-Men: Apocalypse poster that “promotes violence against women” stir up huge controversies when it’s really just an image that Fox had been promoting for months beforehand in trailers and TV spots, where are these complaints? It seems that these days audiences and the masses in general love to be outraged and appalled by the simplest things, sometimes in my eyes out of boredom. This is an extensive topic that can be covered from multiple angles about multiple mediums in multiple formats, but I’ll just say that if a movie could be interpreted as flat out putting down mentally impaired or challenged individuals in a kids flick but a separate form of advertising in a more adult film and the latter gets traction and the former gets passed off, it’s a big sign of just how inconsistent we are as complainers.
For the more or less target audience here, kids, Finding Dory is a delight. The kids may learn to accept everyone around them, regardless of disabilities or differences, and it might encourage kids or even adults with disabilities to “just keep swimming” in life. While I wasn’t totally smitten with the film I won’t discourage lovers and defenders of the movie. As I say, there is a lot to enjoy in the film, but when the previous film sets a template and the sequel seems to just throw that out, I can’t help but call it out.
My rating, 7/10