Disney’s Pixar: just showing off.
After finding Nemo (voice of Hayden Rolence) and reuniting him with his clownfish father Marlin (voice of Albert Brooks), Dory (voice of Ellen DeGeneres) has been staying with them in their seaside anemone — right up until the moment she remembers she lost her parents, launching herself into a frenzy to find them again. The bits of memory she is able to put together leads her to the Marine Life Institute — because of course there is — where she promptly gets separates from Nemo and Marlin before meeting up in quarantine with an octopus named Hank (Ed O’Neill). Through a series of discoveries, Dory puts together the clues to find her parents, but can she complete her quest and get her friends out of hot water at the same time?
Bear witness to Disney Moneymaking 101: the Unnecessary Sequel. Over a decade after Nemo was found, Dory headlines her own film, but leave it to the writers at Pixar to find a way not only to tell another story but make it work. The trailers promise plenty of fun, zaniness, and a bit of tragedy, but everything will work out in the end, right? It looks great, especially with thirteen years of improving digital art technology. Is Finding Dory worth looking in theaters?
Yep! But look closer. Even Pixar’s sages seem a bit bored with their normal M.O., so this slightly over-long film (close to two hours) is stacked with fun and gags. At the same time, it also manages to poke a bit of fun at themselves and at audience expectations for these characters. At the very moment it feels like we’re getting a life lesson shoveled into our mouths, the film is off and running again in a different direction, hope renewed and efforts redoubled. While the manic movement will keep the kiddies occupied, deeper gags and clever snark are ever-present throughout multiple set pieces; can you find all the Easter eggs? Stay until the very end for an after-credits scene, too.
There is a bit of a tradeoff with the entertainment vs. relevance herein, and Finding Dory shifts gears so often throughout the third act that viewers can’t help wanting to give up the quest right along with our heroine. It’s manipulative but also tiring; by the time we get a resolution, our senses feel like they’ve been assaulted and abandoned leaning over a fish tank trying to catch our breath. Is it possible that this film is an overload of Pixar? If not, it comes close and certainly isn’t as tightly plotted or emotional as Toy Story 3. Back when Pixar began, the studio always seemed a little ahead of the rest, a little more professional and generating a bit more expectation. What happened? Maybe the other studios just caught up by taking good notes, but only Sigourney Weaver knows for sure.
Finding Dory is fine for all ages. The real question most of us have for Pixar however is this: what else ya got?
3 Skull Recommendation Out of Four