Sequels are never easy. Even though Pixar has long been the animation fan’s best bet for a quality sequel, see Toy Story 2 and 3, the production company has not been without its hiccups. Monsters University just made me yearn for the simple ingenuity of Monsters Inc. and I confess to wishing I was watching Finding Nemo on a number of occasions whilst watching Dory take the spotlight.
The film’s heart is definitely in the right place and the emphasis is once again on the importance of love and family. It would be impossible not to find the film’s depiction of baby Dory adorable when we are provided her back story and when she transforms into Ellen Degeneres’ familiar gabbling Dory and runs into Marlin in search for his son Nemo we are nostalgically transported to the adventure of the first instalment. Unfortunately, that is where I wanted to be.
In Finding Dory, there’s a whole lot of finding to be done. Dory wants to find her parents, then Marlin and Nemo want to find Dory, then Dory wants to find Marlin and Nemo and they are continuously separated and reunited throughout the film. The simple charm of Finding Nemo came from the premise that when father and son are separated, they spend the rest of the 1 hour and 40 minutes trying to make their way back to one another across the vast ocean that separates them. It is an epic journey of love. Finding Dory is more of a romp in which, with the exception of Dory’s parents, no one is missing for that long and it is just a constant dive between tanks, pools, buckets, beakers of water, the ocean and a large tank confusingly called the ‘Open Ocean’ in which it regrettably feels like a lot less is at stake. The screenplay shies away from the emotional turmoil that made the original such a classic and instead appears to be trying to reassure the youngsters in the audience that it will all be okay because the fish will be back together again in five minutes time.
Realism is a problem too; bear with me here. The concept of fish making their tank filthy so that they could be put in bags to escape was something I could roll with, pardon the not-so-subtle reference. A fish swimming up a tube in his tank and dropping a pebble to jam the filter seemed just about within the capabilities of an albeit very intelligent fish. However, Finding Dory presents its audience with a coffee-drinking, van-driving, camouflaging octopus and as endearing as this Ed O’Neill character may be, it just doesn’t fit. The octopus is a convenient cheat throughout the film, used as a tool to allow the fish to achieve feats that would have been wholly unachievable in the original, and it got to the stage where they may as well just have had a human character on their side.
On a more positive note, the film is up to Pixar’s usual fantastic visual standard and the story-line with Dory’s parents, aided with the use of childhood flashbacks, is a touching story with a warm and fuzzy message that no matter what may hold you back you are capable of anything; a lovely message for the parents and children in the audience to share. Perhaps the highlight of the trip to see Finding Dory was, however, the famous Pixar short, this time a spectacularly rendered story of an infant gull learning to fish amongst the breath taking graphics of the seabed and gentle tide. Alan Barillaro’s short ‘Piper’ is heart-warming, fun and raised more laughs in the screening than Dory was able to. Piper is another Pixar hit, while sadly Finding Dory is a bit more miss.