Finding Dory is just as forgettable as Dory herself. Sure it was a billion dollar financial success and has a percentage over 90%, but once you take off the nostalgia goggles, it’s really not that special. Critics were shocked when Finding Dory wasn’t nominated for Best Animated Feature, but I wasn’t surprised. Everyone from Disney to Ellen DeGeneres begged for a sequel to Finding Nemo. Director Andrew Stanton was the only one who wanted to stay true to Pixar’s policy of only making sequels when the right story came around. Instead of giving into stockholders. Finding Nemo 2 would have been the third non-Pixar sequel made by Circle 7 after Toy Story 3 and Monster University.
The story would’ve been a Finding Marlin movie where Nemo discovers he has a long lost brother. When Disney purchased Pixar, it wasn’t until 12 years later that Finding Dory was conceived by Stanton. Finding Dory asks questions about fish that hit even closer to home. Unlike all of the previous Pixar continuations, only 1 year has passed. I was 7 when Finding Nemo came out and 21 when Finding Dory came out. I never thought there should’ve been a sequel, but I couldn’t say no to seeing some familiar fish friends again. Especially after the disappointment of The Good Dinosaur. Luckily I’d been to the Shedd Aquarium by that point. The only difference was the studio choosing a rehabilitation facility rather than a straightforward aquarium…
Finding Dory only secured an Oscar win for its short Piper. An astoundingly realistic little story where an adorable sandpiper faces her fear of water. Speaking of water, the biggest distinction between Finding Dory and Finding Nemo is the amount of water. Since practically the entire ocean was already explored, there was nowhere to go but the surface. Finding Dory has some of the most believable computer animated water effects I’ve ever seen. Pixar’s photorealistic rendering system was reworked just to light things better. The only problem was how little that made a difference. 12 years later and Finding Nemo still holds up better than most early 2000’s computer animation. Like Finding Dory, the original is already perfect and can’t really be improved on too much. Like Cars 2 and Monsters University, Finding Dory has a new lead to center on. Marlin is arguably the lead in Finding Nemo, unless you count Nemo’s time spent in the tank equally.
Since Dory made an off handed remark about not knowing where her parents are, Finding Dory is all about her journey to find them. Almost the entire respectable cast returned including Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, and any character voiced by the Pixar staff. Even though she hasn’t acted in anything since Finding Nemo, Ellen gets the spotlight this time around. Since events couldn’t play out in real time, only 1 year has past since Nemo was found. Meaning the now grown up Alexander Gould had to be replaced by another child actor. Hayden Rolence matches Nemo’s voice well enough. While Gould has a bit part as a driver. This time Marlin & Nemo take a backseat to Dory’s story. We learn the origin of every one of Dory’s quirks. Dory was once an adorable baby blue tang suffering from short term memory loss. Diane Keaton & Eugene Levy are her loving parents Jenny & Charlie.
Like any child with a disability, her parents give her special lessons that’ll help her later in life. Like to tell fish what she has if ever she’s lost or to avoid going near the undertow. When Dory is separated, she becomes so forgetful that she forgets what she’s even looking for as she grows up. It’s at that point Dory swims into Marlin as he’s looking for the boat. 1 year later, Dory is living in a brain coral house right next to Marlin & Nemo’s anemone. They’re practically a family who spend a lot of time reminding you how much you loved the first movie. One of my main grievances is how often they seemed to be checking things off. Something that’s unavoidable when the title hinges on a fish being lost. Dory becomes Mr. Ray’s teaching assistant, he sings a song, and a kid from Nemo’s class asks about Dory’s family. A stingray migration near the undertow triggers one of many flashbacks to Dory’s parents. It’s the best way to write for a character who forgets things.
We learn that Dory lives in the “Jewel of Morro Bay, California.” We also discover she was swept into the undertow, her parents helped her find home with seashells, she learned to speak whale through a pipe, and “Just Keep Swimming” was a song her parents used to sing for her. Each bit of information helps her over the course of the movie. Even though they have no real purpose in her adventure, Marlin & Nemo tag along for emotional support. Crush the sea turtle briefly appears to give them a lift to California and they narrowly avoid a giant squid in a sunken shipwreck that also has a Pizza Planet truck. Marlin scolds Dory for putting Nemo in danger (again) and she follows the voice of Sigourney Weaver to the surface. Although her voice was used for the computer in WALL·E, this time they call attention to it.
Despite it still pretty much being an aquarium, the Marine Life Institute is all about rescue, rehabilitation, and release. Even though it’s animated, they feel the need to indulge that crowd. Dory is taken into quarantine where fish are either nursed back to health then released or sent to an aquarium in Cleveland. Dory runs into many new fish friends, but her main travelling companion is a 6 legged red octopus voiced by Ed O’Neill. Although he can be a little antagonistic, there are no villains once again. Hank camouflages in many fun ways and is only concerned with having a tank to himself in Cleveland. So he makes a deal with Dory that he’ll get her transfer tag in exchange for taking her to find her parents. A large majority of Finding Dory is traversing through the Institute in any body of water available. Which is a clever idea that does separate the movies.
Since Hank can go on land and sea, he transports Dory in a coffee pot, cup, or anything that holds water. Dory reads the map and she mistakenly ends up in the tank of a whale shark voiced by Kaitlin Olson. Like Dory, Destiny is nearsighted and the reason Dory can speak whale. They’re joined by a Ty Burrell voiced beluga whale named Bailey who’s lost his echolocation. Added characters like them and the humor is very hit or miss for me. In fact, Finding Dory has an overwhelming sense of depression. Between Dory’s goal and the flashback’s she has, I can’t help but feel like they were trying too hard be emotional. I call it the Inside Out effect. It’s sort of the same problem The Good Dinosaur had. Dory & Hank go further with a baby stroller, but wind up inside an open fish tank. For me the funniest joke is all the sea creatures afraid to be touched by grabby children. Hank has a fear of being touched, but Dory gets him through it and he inks when poked.
Meanwhile, Marlin & Nemo try to find Dory by talking to lazy sea lions voiced by Idris Elba & Dominic West. Their running gag is barking at the dimwitted Gerald to get off their rock. They call a brainless bird named Becky over to them and she transports them via pale after Marlin imprints. As Marlin & Nemo wind up in a gift shop tank, there’s a sloppy message about believing in Dory’s spontaneity. So they follow a sprinkler to another tank with a chatty clam while Hank parts ways with Dory. Leaving her in the central fish tank where her parents have mysteriously disappeared. A crab couple (including one voiced by John Ratzenberger), tell her the royal blue tangs are in quarantine. Destiny convinces Bailey to use his echolocation to help Dory through the pipe line and she reunites with Marlin & Nemo. Things get sad again when the blue tangs tell Dory her parents are probably dead. Leading to Marlin & Nemo being stuck on the truck to Cleveland, Hank being snatched, and Dory being swept into the ocean.
Even though the subtle build up is supposed to make it a big tear worthy moment, I just couldn’t force a tear when Dory follows a trail of seashells to her parents. It would help if the whole movie wasn’t so sentimental all the time. You’d think the movie would end here, but there’s still a whole crazy chase scene to see. Every-fish comes together to help Dory get her clownfish family back. Destiny & Bailey flee captivity, adorable otters stop traffic, Dory convinces Hank to be free, Becky scoops them up, and they hijack, then crash the truck filled with fish that they also free. In the end, Dory has her whole family with her again. We even get a rendition of “Unforgettable” by Sia and a fun after-credits cameo by the Tank gang who are still in their baggies. Finding Dory finds a heart, but loses its sense of purpose.
Preceded by: Finding Nemo