My continued efforts in understanding the minds of Disney fans continue into the territory that I feel a bit more familiar with. Sequels to films I grew up watching is a risk to the source material, and nobody should know that more than Disney and Pixar. They somehow survived two Cars sequels, so I had somewhat high hopes for Finding Dory, a sequel to childhood classic and all-round great film, Finding Nemo. Whereas I have no excuse for nit-picking and tearing through other Disney films that I haven’t the faintest nostalgia or love for, things are different with this one. Finding Dory looks to expand upon memories I hold onto as a child, and with that in mind, Finding Dory would either be a tremendous companion piece to a classic Pixar film, or an unmemorable waste of time and material that never really goes anywhere.
You’ll be disheartened to know that Finding Dory falls into the latter category. Depicting a side character from the first film looking for their parents is skating on thin ice to begin with, and for a film set within the confines of the ocean, it’s ironic that the script doesn’t hold much water. An impressive cast filled with familiar voices (Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres) and new friends (Diane Keaton, Idris Elba, and Kaitlin Olsen to name a few), it’s a sad state of affairs that such a talented cast of characters and director Andrew Stanton couldn’t pull off something that feels a bit more worth the wait.
For a sequel to succeed, at the very least it needs to feel like it deserves the branding and references to the original piece. Does Finding Nemo benefit from having a sequel? No, not in the slightest. It’s the formula that latter-day Pixar now follows though, and as I brush up on their more recent efforts, it becomes clearer that they’re starting to run out of ideas. Perhaps I’m just too old for these films now, but there’s absolutely nothing of interest going on here. Not an interesting moment in sight for adults or kids, both would be bored by this predictable farce as we follow Dory in the hopes of finding her family.
Most of the issues within the film come from the script, a rehash of older ideas found in Finding Nemo, or cut concepts that never wound up in the first film making their way into the sequel. It’s a film that struggles to keep its head above water at the best of times, with the flat direction, polished, forgettable animation and frankly redundant leading performances paving the path of mediocrity. Even for a kids film, there’s nothing within Finding Dory that can really muster the same emotion or memorable moments the first film had to offer. Again, that could be nostalgia talking, but it’s been a minute since I last sat down to watch Finding Nemo.
It’s impossible not to compare this to its predecessor, especially since that film is so much stronger than this in every regard. Stronger characters, better direction, engaging story and a wholesome message at the heart of it that would have no trouble connecting with even the stoniest faced of audiences. Finding Dory feels like a filtered down version of the ideals and practice the first film has to offer. A meaningless cash grab that doesn’t really warrant its existence, Finding Dory provides us a return to classic characters, but I couldn’t have predicted how bland a return it would be.