I swear, every movie coming out for the next three months is a remake or a sequel. Every. Single. One.
*Sigh* Must be summer.
Anyway, out of all these unnecessary movies, possibly the most unnecessary is Finding Dory, the sequel to that great family movie about fish that came out more than a decade ago and wrapped up its whole story with a nice happy ending. Not much has changed under the sea since then (apparently it’s only been a year in fish time). Marlin, Nemo, and Dory are living happily in the coral reef, and still going on field trips with Mr. Ray. But during one of these trips, a sudden flashback overcomes Dory’s short-term memory loss, and she remembers that she has a family. So it’s time for another journey across the ocean, with the destination this time being an aquarium in California.
Much of Finding Dory plays out just like its predecessor: the characters go on a journey, meet other friendly fish, almost get eaten by a nasty creature in a shipwreck, endure the horrors of human children, and end up reuniting with their lost loved ones, just before initiating a crazy escape back to the ocean. The difference, of course, is that this time around, the focus is entirely on Dory. Marlin and Nemo, in fact, are pretty useless. They don’t do much, and, disappointingly, Marlin doesn’t seem to have learned anything about over-protectiveness since the last movie.
But when it comes to Dory, there’s not much to complain about. Ellen DeGeneres does a brilliant job voicing her, as always, and it’s kind of refreshing to see her as more than just a comic relief character. While the last movie mostly treated her short-term memory loss as a quirky running gag, this one treats it like a serious mental illness. Dory can’t remember her own parents except in brief flashbacks, and she has a full-blown panic attack every time she’s asked to go anywhere alone, because she knows she’ll get lost. While the search for her parents forms the main part of the plot, the movie is really about Dory coming to grips with her condition and learning how to do things on her own even when she can’t remember where she is. And she ends up saving the day in even more awesome ways than Marlin did in the first movie (to the point where it feels a little over-the-top at times).
In addition to the protagonist we all know and love, this movie introduces some fun new characters, like Destiny the near-sighted whale shark, Bailey the ditzy beluga, and a pair of sea lions who more or less fill the role of the friendly sharks in the first movie. But my favourite of the new characters was Hank, a grumpy octopus who camouflages himself anywhere, moves freely on land, operates his tentacles with human-like dexterity, and generally confirms my long-held belief that octupuses will take over the world the instant they become self-aware.
Overall, the movie has a much more “kid-friendly” feel than the first one, not that Finding Nemo was in any way inappropriate for kids. It’s less scary and has more silly and/or gross-out moments, like Hank “inking” a pool or Marlin throwing up during a turtle ride. It also doesn’t pack the same emotional punch. Dory’s relationship with her parents is shown entirely through flashbacks, which isn’t quite the same as letting us see their relationship play out for five minutes before the conflict kicks in. It’s well done as far as it goes, and her desire to see them again feels genuine, but it also feels sort of tacked-on after the first movie’s happy ending.
If Finding Dory has a “message,” it’s that people with disabilities are just as capable of great feats as anyone else, and that no one should ever apologise or feel inferior for having a mental problem. Which is, I must admit, slightly more inspiring than the first movie’s “over-protective parents are wrong” aesop. There are some very powerful moments toward the end that show Dory getting over her fear of forgetting things, and learning how to use her own unique strengths to get out of trouble.
But in the end, whether it’s because of the storyline’s familiarity, the more childish atmosphere, or something else, the movie just didn’t stick with me like the first one did. It was decently entertaining, for a sequel, but it didn’t really offer anything surprising or new.
The opening short, “Piper,” is a different story. The almost photo-realistically animated story of a baby sandpiper overcoming his fear of the ocean, it’s worth the price of a movie ticket all by itself. I didn’t think it was possible for me to be blown away by 3D animation anymore, but Pixar keeps on proving me wrong. This is a gorgeous bit of storytelling done without any dialogue, possibly their best short yet. It’s just a pity they can’t seem to bring the same level of originality to their feature-length films anymore.
Overall, I can whole-heartedly recommend Finding Dory to anyone wishing to take their young child/sibling/cousin/etc. out for a fun evening. For a single adult like myself, it may not be worth the ten bucks.