Finding Dory is a success, with heaps of fun and invention. Because it is a sequel, it is not as surprising as Finding Nemo, and it won’t rock the world in the same way, but as a sequel it is a fine, beautiful film.
That said, Finding Dory does not totally compete with the best that Pixar has to offer. Also, because it is a sequel, it doesn’t quite have the impact that the first movie had. It is more like a middle tier film in the Pixar catalog with a small-scale story. It is funny enough though and definitely worth checking out.
I did feel some exhaustion about Dory’s memory problems, or mememory loss as the impossibly cute baby Dory says. She keeps mentioning it, and in the second half of the movie I tired of it. It is just this recurring thing that is a bit sad, and sure I feel sad for her, but story wise it serves little purpose except for her to get into trouble. Like, she swims in a circle and then loses the people she was talking to, and then swims somewhere else because she can’t remember what was happening. You know it is going to happen when you see it, and that’s a predictable part of the story and a bit lazy as a plot moving element.
Story wise, Finding Dory is a bit scatterbrained, like Dory herself. Whereas Finding Nemo was a relatively simple episodic story that moved from one place to the next, Finding Dory plays out mostly on one location where characters are trying to find each other and end up in troubled situations. Things are happening all at once, all over the place, with a fast pace. A bit Kung Fu Panda-like, even. Pixar starts to resemble Dreamworks with its frantic jokes, and Disney Animation starts to resemble Pixar with its heartfelt moments. You can feel this in the way that the jokes are the strongest elements of the story, while the heavier scenes actually feel a bit forced.
Luckily, we have Hank the octopus who injects character and motivation into the story. He helps her out because Dory has something that he needs. That makes sense, because why else would an octopus at an aquarium start a friendship with the scatterbrained Dory? The only people who interact with her are either her friends from the past, which include Marlin and Nemo, and people who need something from her. Hank lifts the film up a great deal, as do the other new characters including a nearsighted whale shark and a neurotic beluga whale.
It is the new characters that really help to make this succeed. Marlin and Nemo are there, but are oddly uninteresting, really. The pessimistic Marlin is more a detriment, and little Nemo doesn’t have much to add. Dory herself is the most welcome recurring character, in fact, and the new whales and the octopus are good additions to the world. It is a good thing that these old ones take a backseat and there is more room for fresh blood.
Finding Dory easily takes its place among the better animated movies of the year. Whether it has any staying power or will be remembered years down the road is doubtful, but it will light up your evening.