One has to feel sorry for Pixar. With so many treasured classics in their relatively recent back catalogue, the pressure to continue to perform must be terrible. No matter how otherwise laudable an effort, so often all one can do is damn with faint praise. It doesn’t help that following the full acquisition by Disney, the studio has tended to simply churn out artistically inessential sequels to its canon (now sadly reduced to brands). One of these more recent films, Inside Out, has broken the trend in being both new and a critical darling, but with Finding Dory we return to admirable but pale imitations of beloved originals.
I love Finding Nemo. We all do. It’s charming, mesmeric and moving. Finding Dory is… okay. It does best when it moves away from the motions of its predecessor. It’s notable how much the film abbreviates the regrettably similar set up and the earlier chase sequences. Of course the film could be expected to draw upon Nemo, but it really could do more to forge its own identity.
This essentially summarises the flimsy confusion behind the film that undermines it throughout
That’s not to say this is a bad film of course. I laughed. I was engaged. I also cringed when the squid chasing our old gang reminded me how much more interesting the sharks were in Finding Nemo. It would be too harsh to call it a retread but the structure of the old film is retained. Time for a chase, followed by time for hijinx in the tank with the target of our heroes’ search. When these bits arrive, you can’t help but be reminded of the execrable cameo of Ozzy Osbourne in the repetitious Goldmember, bemoaning that the film had all the same jokes as the last one.
Actually, that’s a niggle. Obviously the present title is snappier, but really the overriding objective is finding Dory’s parents. This essentially summarises the flimsy confusion behind the film that undermines it throughout. Dory has its own ideas but it keeps getting hamstrung by the need to pander to expectations set by its predecessor.
I find the perennial fear of parental abandonment genuinely effective
My equivocations shouldn’t be taken as an indictment of the cast or the animation work. The environments are as luscious as ever, the fish are demonstrably aquatic, actors old and new are giving solid performances. With this in mind you can sense my disappointment that it doesn’t quite measure up. Finding Nemo set that bar very high.
I’m not immune to the charms of endearing big-eyed animals, and I find the perennial fear of parental abandonment genuinely effective in eliciting. However, we do descend into the schmaltz of the ‘I believe in you’ vein and far too many of the gags are call backs. Dory speaking whale – how original!
Verdict: Funny and entertaining, but Finding Dory is no Finding Nemo.