(Originally posted 3rd August 2016)
Finding Dory is pretty much what you'd expect from a cash-in sequel. The plot is fairly thin and obviously is centred around Dory. There is not much effort to flesh out any new supporting characters and Marlin and Nemo are similarly marginalised. That being said, Dory herself is a charismatic enough character to carry the film. She is not exactly developed any further from the original film, but at least is given some history and more purpose. The scenes of her as a child are suitably adorable and there is an emotional pay off at the end that is about as basic as you can get.
At many points, it feels like you're watching a cartoon. It may be ridiculous to criticise this about an animated film but it's an important and negative step away from the tone of Finding Nemo. Pixar has never been about strict realism, of course, but it at least strove to obey the laws of (Hollywood) physics. There's exaggeration and then there's pure fantasy and Finding Dory strays far too close to the latter.
The most egregious example of this is the magical mcguffin character of Hank the octopus, who arrives on the scene at any point where the characters are in a situation they can't get out of. Hank has supernatural powers that allow him to turn invisible; he has super strength; and he can live out of water for extended periods of time. Put it this way, at one point he drives a truck for about ten minutes and we're supposed to take that completely seriously. Then there's a beluga whale who serves no purpose in the plot other than to provide echolocation, which apparently is being able to see anything anywhere, even when not in water. The filmmakers' abandonment of any kind of grip on reality, even in a kid's film, is pretty laughable at times.
And that is part of the problem overall. This is very much a kid's film. Pixar have built a brand on creating child-friendly stories that are complex enough for adults to appreciate too. Finding Dory is aimed at six year olds, but is complex enough for a twelve year old to appreciate. This may be my own prejudices talking, but if Finding Nemo was Pixar, then perhaps Finding Dory is Disney Pixar. Soulless Corporate Pixar.
Oh, and a side-note. There are a couple of minor characters in Finding Dory who are seemingly cognitively disabled. Over the course of the film, other characters manipulate, bully and harass them. There's no pay-off where they get their comeuppance or anything – just disability played for laughs. Very surprising to see that in a kid's film in 2016.
So finally, what is the message of Finding Dory? Kid's films have to have some kind of moral, right? There's definitely something about family being important but also that family is who you choose it to be. That's okay. There's also some bits to do with trust and letting people make their own decisions, which felt like a bit of a hangover from the first film because it was all centred around Marlin being a worrier. But I think what the major message is, comes down to, “do whatever you want, it'll turn out alright because magic.”
Shallow and uninspired – 6/10
Listen to our Finding Nemo episode here: