Finding Dory Review: Swimmingly Alright

Chad White
Loves: Pixar
Likes: Finding Nemo (it’s only fine), John Ratzenberger’s cameos
Dislikes: Seafood
Hates: Stunt casting

Suck it, bipeds!

For a cartoon movie about one fish's’ mental issues, Finding Dory overcomes its initial obstacle of surpassing the first movie’s schtick  pretty seamlessly. But it had its share of problems in pacing and tired material. While it did have its issues, Finding Dory is a worthwhile that doesn’t linger too much on the past.

The movie stars everyone’s favorite dumb fish, Dory (Ellen Degeneres), as she sets out to find her parents. She is, of course, joined by her friends Marlin and Nemo (Al Brooks and newcomer Hayden Rolence). Things kick off almost immediately as the movie plays all of the classic sequel cards early. Just keep swimming, Crush and his turtle gang and several Dory lines are all played out instantly. It’s an interesting strategy as this leaves the audience with their favorite jokes but in wonderment of where else the movie could go. The three end up at the Marine Life Institute after bouts of Dory’s memories come back to her. Once there, Dory meets characters like the garish octopus Hank (Ed O’Neil), near sighted whale Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), beluga whale Bailey (Ty Burrell who aid the fish in getting back to her parents, Charlie and Jenny (Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton). Meanwhile, Marlin and Nemo must get the help getting into the insitute from two sea lions played by Idris Elba and Dominic West. These two are real gems of the movie because of their taunting of fellow sea lion.

The story is run of the mill as Dory and her clown fish companions get separated. We’re then led down a path of flashbacks that give necessary backstory as to why Dory can only remember certain things. Story beats are slow and elementary but often fun. Dory isn’t naturally a compelling character. Her jokes are tired and the constant reference to her memory woes are annoying. But her end characteristics show how lovable the character can be. While Pixar sequels like Toy Story 2 and Cars 2 attempted to focus on different characters to varying degrees of success, Finding Dory makes better use of its secondary lead. Dory is loads better than Mater but she’s not as amusing as Buzz Lightyear. To add to that, Marlin is still an unaccepting, tiresome fish. He spends the entirety of the movie yelling at Dory only to have Nemo remind him that they’re family. One would think that after a year and a harrowing adventure, Marlin would be a little more accepting of his friend’s memory faults.

To add to that, casting is becoming increasingly troublesome for Pixar who. Although, this movie is better off with its cast than the scraps that went to The Good Dinosaur. Two Modern Family actors just play their characters from the show. Keaton and Levy, while great, pander their daughter, even after finding her as an adult. But their are standouts in the title character as she carries a bulk of the movie. Olson, Elba and West are sensational -- especially the latter two with their almost perfect sea lion behavior.

Should you watch Finding Dory?

There were times in Finding Dory when I wanted to check out. It was charming but bland, funny but still dull. The falling action had some of the best moments in the Finding series short history. Things began to click as Dory and her pals tried to rescue everyone. But I can’t help shake this feeling that Pixar is tiring out. Dory will come across as the best thing since Toy Story to many but, for this CG super fan, this movie barely meets Pixar standards. Go see it for a single good time. Hold onto those original Finding Nemo memories.

 

Notes

  • The short, Piper, that preceded the movie is hands down the best LOOKING short to date. I’m not even sure if those birds weren’t real birds. The story, however, was passable.

  • Finding Dory panders to the cute gene so much. Young Dory is adorable as butts -- I’ll admit it -- but good God they could’ve cut down on it. I think I’m suffering from a sugar coma now.

  • Still better than The Good Dinosaur. But not a leap like Inside Out.

  • Apparently, there was an after-credits scene with The Tank Gang still in plastic bags and (somehow) alive and well. I didn’t want to wait to see that. I’m sorry.

  • The 10 AM showing I went to on Sunday was full. I sat up front expecting to hear an annoying amount of child laughter. The theater was devoid of laughter for long stretches. Take that as you will.

  • Idris Elba and Dominic West’s sea lions are the best characters in any Pixar film ever. Tears flowed from my eyes as I laughed at every one of their lines.

  • Sigourney Weaver plays Sigourney Weaver. Looks like Pixar is breaking all kinds of rules.

  • Kate McKinnon and Bill Hader’s readings as fish trying to help young Dory was spectacular. It makes me think that, since Pixar is running out of top tier talent, they should tap into the alternative comedian game. Look at Bob’s Burgers for instance. They thrive on weirdos like Keegan-Michael Key, Mike Birbiglia, Jenny Slate and others.