Featuring The Voices Of: Ellen Degeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Hayden Rolance, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Idris Elba, Dominic West, Kate McKinnon, Bill Hader, Sigourney Weaver
Directed By: Andrew Stanton and Angus Maclaine
This is not one of those cases where the sequel is better than the original. I know some critic claimed that, because I’ve seen the commercial Disney is running, where they found someone who clearly hit their head or hasn’t actually seen Finding Nemo. Not that Finding Dory is a bad film, but Finding Nemo is not just Pixar royalty, but Disney royalty. Finding Dory tries really hard to have the same emotional heft, but it just never really connects.
I think the problem was that it failed to turn Dory from a sidekick into the leading lady. It’s not anywhere near as bad as Cars 2, which made Mater the main character, but Dory failed to translate in the same way that Buzz and Woody so graciously exchanged places in Toy Story 2. Though I will say, if you have special needs children, this is definitely the film for you, and for them. Even moreso than Finding Nemo. There is a very strong moral core here about not coddling your child too closely, and letting them find their strength on their own. The movie might be called Finding Dory, but it’s more about Dory finding herself.
Marlin and Nemo feel almost out of place in the storyline, like they didn’t really know what to do with them, but they knew they had to be in the film somehow, so there they are. I know they’re ultimately a huge part of the journey, but I was less invested in their story than I was in Dory’s journey. Everytime we cut to Marlin/Nemo, I wished I was with Dory, and one of her new friends. And kudos to introducing a slew of new characters I instantly fell in love with. Hank is amazing, and all your kids will want a Hank toy now. Destiny, Bailey, Jenny, Charlie, Fluke, Rudder, and all the rest of the newbies were all engaging. I missed the sharks from the original, but by the end of the film I didn’t care as much because I had this whole new flock of characters to care about.
In the end, family is what you make of it, and all these great characters are now together. I wouldn’t even mind seeing a third Finding Whoever movie, even though I know it won’t compare to Nemo. If you have characters we care about and even a fairly decent story, you’ll be fine. You can’t win them all.
Finding Dory is a perfectly good time in theatres, and your kids will love it. As parents, you’ll also get a lot out of the messages in the film, and might find yourself treating your kids differently going forward. Sometimes, you have to fall down and pick yourself up. If you keep having someone else pick you up, you may never learn to walk on your own. That’s the message of Finding Dory, and it’s a good one to live by.
As a side note, and not to spoil things, but the Sigourney Weaver cameo is just absolute brilliance. That was the hardest laugh I had the whole film. Pure. Brilliance.
FINAL GRADE: B+