Finding Dory

Finding Dory

As Pixar continue to evolve, they also seem to now display an inadvertent predilection for clinging to their own formula. While this isn’t always the case, as last year’s joyously inventive Inside Out displayed, it has now become seemingly more common, as was evident from the other Pixar release late last year, the sloppy and conventional The Good Dinosaur. Finding Dory, sequel to the beloved Finding Nemo, one of Pixar’s most extraordinary and original films, sits somewhere in the middle. It’s a charming, sweet, characteristically frivolous affair, but you can see exactly the path it’s taking and when it finally gets to the end you wonder if this was the best they could come up with after a 13 year wait.

Finding Dory’s basic thrust comes from its opening flashbacks. Dory, once again voiced with self-deprecating comic grace by Ellen Degeneres, recalls, in bits and pieces, important moments from her life until she finally builds the urge and courage to seek out her long lost family. In pursuing this, enlisting help from her reluctant (and some would say only) friends, Clown fish Marlin and his eager son Nemo, Dory is captured and placed in quarantine within a Marine rehabilitation institute. Marlin and Nemo are, you guessed it, forced into a role reversal from the first film, and need to not just free Dory but also help her find her parents so she can get the closure she needs. This setup is enjoyably amusing, largely because of the cast of zany characters at the institute that we are collectively introduced to and also because of the cautious interactions with humans, ala the Toy Story series. This also leads to the films biggest handicap – the absence of the absolute sense of excitement that the open ocean provided in the first film, compensated here by the more muted confines of a single location.

Finding Nemo‘s themes of separation anxiety felt by a father are also replaced by the longing that comes from the loss of family and lineage felt by an individual, which makes Finding Dory more universal, thereby expanding (in a shrewd or unintentional way) its potential audience. But underneath this universality is a lack of versatility in storytelling. Even though the animation reaches even newer highs of beautiful photorealism and all the marine creations are charming and witty, the structure and execution of Dory’s expedition isn’t entirely original, feeling a bit secondhand in the scripting department. Where the first films situations were propulsive, here they feel, what’s that word, ah yes, safe. If they weren’t Finding Dory would perhaps try to explore more of the vast, unfathomable oceanic world rather than spending such an elaborate amount of time on terra firma.

As they do with nearly every feature, the talented team of Pixar writers and artists imbue the situations and eventual resolution of Dory’s escapade with important life lessons and the accentuated importance of being comfortable with your own self. There is a lot here for kids to think about which makes this ideal family viewing and the last act chase, while nowhere close to the excited chaos of the original, is still very engaging. This though brings us back to the point about why, after such a long gap, this is the best Pixar could do. It’s quite simple really – it’s because of Ellen. She was fairly well known a decade ago but is the reigning queen of television today. Her role in Finding Nemo was that of a sidekick. Dory was the quiet discovery, the supporting cast member who completely stole the show. Pixar and Disney decided that this merited her having her own film especially now that Ellen was so huge and so Finding Dory was conceived, less as a sequel and more as a Dory spin-off. If you view the film in those terms, it’s a winner. The truth though is that, with the exception of the Toy Story series, it reinforces the notion that Pixar should avoid sequels and stick to originals. The posters for the film read “An unforgettable journey she probably won’t remember”. By being middle of the road, neither is likely to be true for audiences.

Rating: ★★★☆☆

About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and