Finding Dory (2016)

I don’t want to be Dory. Not just because I’d be a fish paddling about in an ocean that’s primed to feed off my bones, but because I think my brain would go into shock trying to remember all the things I need to remember. I might end up regarding a rock on the seabed with the love and affection I’d usually extend to a formidable lover, or vice versa. Watching Dory struggle with her memory is no longer funny; it’s tiring, heartbreaking, and recalls the kind of frustration Leonard Shelby had to endure tracking down his wife’s killer in Memento (2000). It’s a sad, sad situation.

Having said that, I had a good time with Finding Dory, the sequel to the great Finding Nemo (2003), where Dory and her pal Marlin scoured the abyssal depths of the ocean to find Marlin’s son. This time, Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolance) do the scouring to find Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), who has suddenly remembered she has parents and decides on a whim to go hunt them down at a marine conservation centre in California (so Dory’s practically finding Dory).

She discovers the centre by – get this – following the voice of Sigourney Weaver, whose recognisable sultry tones echo out of the centre’s PA system and down into the murky depths of the Pacific (we are, however, not treated to an actual Sigourney Weaver cameo). Key words and images trigger Dory’s memories and she’s off, leaping from fish tank to fish tank in an almost brazen attempt to recapture her youth, all the while avoiding the attention of the human population miraculously in broad daylight.

There is absolutely zero logic and practicality applied to this film, which thrives instead on sheer force of will (there is a motor chase that’s highly reminiscent of Toy Story 2, but infinitely more silly and unbelievable). It is a movie for adrenaline junkies, albeit those who prefer fish and computer animation to jumping off a bridge. Once the adventure begins, it doesn’t stop for nobody, not even for Hank the octopus (Ed O’Neill), who offers to help Dory on her search in return for safe passage to a Cleveland aquarium.

Finding Dory has the look and attitude of its predecessor, and re-establishes characters that have already become family. It is willing to delight and entertain, which it does dutifully, but I fear its nostalgia kick knocks a few of its own innovative teeth out. There’s a lot of time spent on reliving old jokes and pasting familiar faces on the screen and not enough on ironing out the true torment of Dory’s condition and the affection she feels for her parents. It’s a bit like revisiting a familiar amusement park after thirteen years and finding out nothing has improved except the souvenirs at the gift shop.

But maybe I’m being fussy, because I really did have a good time with this. It’s just not as sophisticated as it could have been. And I’ve come to expect a lot of sophistication from a Pixar film. The greatest of them all is Inside Out (2015), which was followed swiftly, if not clumsily, by The Good Dinosaur (Pixar’s weakest).

Finding Dory doesn’t deserve to be shoved down that same barrel, but the more sequels Pixar piles on, the more cynical I get. Four of their five upcoming films are sequels. When did this happen? When did churning out unnecessary follow-ups become more fashionable than dreaming up new, wonderful stories with fresh-faced characters and plucky complex adventures? Dory is a sweet, innocuous little fish. She reminded us of this in the first movie, and that should’ve been all. Now she seems caught in an endless whirlwind and it threatens to do her in.

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