Review: Finding Dory
Grading Pixar is hard. Peak Pixar means unparalleled creativity and depth generating unbridled joy and taking us places we have never been before. Which is why when Pixar isn't at it's best, you can't help but wonder what could have been. This sequel to the much-beloved, but grossly overrated Finding Nemo follows the same characters on a new adventure. And while there is definitely lots of warmth and charm, no one should get carried away.
Dory (voice gleefully by Ellen Degeneres) is a lovable blue fish who suffers from short-term memory loss. The film opens by recounting some of the events in Finding Nemo, where Dory helps Marlin find his lost son. This time, the roles are reversed and Marlin and Nemo must help Dory find her family after she remembers snippets from her past.
Her journey takes her to the marine research facility where she was born. Along the way, she is assisted by various characters who reveal more and more about her past. As this is a movie for kids, she is ultimately successful in finding her family and all lived happily ever after. And therein lies the problem.
My issues with the film are not so much that everything worked out for Dory, but that along the way, the film does little to really comment on the real world it would be situated in. Allusions are made to issues like animals in captivity and pollution in our ocean, but these points are never really drawn together. One of her companions is a dismembered octopus named Hank that the film subtly refers to as a "heptapus." Hank got that way from being handled too roughly by humans. If the film means to be critical of these humans, that punch never really lands.
Everything from litter ensnaring fish to their limited habitats is ripe for sharp criticism, but the movie seems to include these without any overriding moral judgment as to whether animals in captivity makes sense at all.
Now, that doesn't mean Pixar's films necessarily need this type of overriding philosophical meditation to be great. It does, however mean that the final product was lacking for depth. The film offers a thoughtful examination of the concepts of family and home, but it could have taken an all of the above strategy and given audiences a less conventional narrative.
The film gets points for being one of the most beautiful worlds Pixar has tasked its computers with making. But it loses some of those points for scale when we jump from the ocean to tanks and buckets. This is a worthy sequel, but I doubt Dory would find much here to ever remember.