Pixar has been the heavy-hitter in animation over the last two-plus decades after changing the game with 1995’s ‘Toy Story’. With numerous hits since then both in the form of original releases and sequels, the studio has seen their ups and downs but ever at their lowest, they produce quality films. With this summer’s ‘Finding Dory’, Pixar hope to swing closer to their highlight reel than to their most recent dud, ‘The Good Dinosaur’. With the bulk of the cast returning along with ‘Finding Nemo’ director Andrew Stanton, who has enlisted some help from co-director Angus MacLane, this team hopes to use their significant resources and studio pedigree to churn out both a critical and box-office success that continues to the good name.
‘Dory’ picks up one year after the events of ‘Nemo’ where we meet up with Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), Marlin (Albert Brooks) and his son Nemo (Hayden Rolence) as they live out their day-to-day together with little excitement to speak of. Dory’s short-term memory loss presents a gap momentarily and allows her to reach further back to remember her parents that she has lost after we see them in a flashback sequence that shows Dory grow into an adult on her own. Once this part of her memory has been jogged the races are off! Dory enlists the reluctant help of Marlin and his over-eager son race off on an adventure to Los Angeles to find her parents hopefully waiting for her in the last location she can remember.
We are thrown into an adventure filled with returning characters (such as the sea turtles who act as a fast-transit system) as wellsome new characters including – SPOILER ALERT – Dory’s parents Jenny and Charlie played by Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy respectively as well as a curmudgeonly old octopus named Hank, played by the pitch-perfect Ed O’Neill. Some of the gang is split up and Marlin then has to search for the one who is lost with the help of a differently-able fish with the whole gang growing internally and learning some lessons along the way. Sound familiar?
While ‘Dory’ is definitely very familiar and possibly formulaic, borrowing not only from its predecessor but other Pixar films from before it as well, it does this somewhat lazy storytelling with a certain amount of charm all the same. Instead of racing across the ocean in search of a friend, we race across the ocean and then through a stationary aquarium to find the lost hero this time around. This allows us to run into the previously mentioned Hank as well as a near-sighted whale named Destiny (Kaitlin Olson) and her aquatic neighbor Bailey (Ty Burrell) a beluga whale with a broken echo-location system. These new characters and settings add for some laughs and emotional beats as one would expect from Pixar but lands itself firmly in the camp of being just OKAY. The parallels with ‘Finding Nemo’ and scenes that will bring ‘Toy Story’ memories rushing at you with the force of a moving truck are what prevent this film from being GREAT. If another studio logo played at the beginning of this film then I may be singing a different tune, I do admit, but that’s no excuse still. If we expect a certain level of quality because of a glistening track record then it isn’t unreasonable to be disappointed when this level of skill isn’t matched with the latest production.
Children and adults will enjoy this film plenty with comedy, action and emotion through and through but that doesn’t satisfy everyone’s tastes. There is plenty here to leave plenty of folks desiring just a little bit more. The just OKAY nature of ‘Finding Dory’ added up with some scenes depicting the question treatment of lesser mentally-developed characters (I will let far more intelligent people discuss these issues) leave me feeling like I can’t recommend anyone rush out to the theater to see this, but box-office reports will show that I am in the minority. ‘Dory’ isn’t bad in any way but a few month wait and a comfy couch would have sufficed for me to see this film.