-Pixar’s sequel trend is making the originals seem tired, and even the wonderful world of ‘Nemo’ is exploited in this average affair.

There are currently two categories in which to place a Pixar film…

The first is the 12 or so massively original, near-masterpieces that have stemmed out of their 1990-2010 releases, filled to the brim with originality. Everyone has seen them: the 90s gave us Toy Story, Toy Story 2, and A Bug’s Life, and the first decade in the 2000s gave us Wall-E, Up, Toy Story 3, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., The Incredibles, and Ratatouille. But, outside of 2012’s Brave and 2015’s return to form in Inside Out, most of the recent releases fall into the second category…

The second category is the sequel-heavy, less original, profit oriented film-making that has begun to fester either for lack of ingenuity or lack of studio approval, but I can’t imagine that the financial hit taken from The Good Dinosaur is going to help bring out any property that isn’t a sequel. These films: Monsters University, Cars 2, and now Finding Dory are about the bottom of the barrel for Pixar, and although this new release isn’t bad (it’s certainly better than the scathing review I gave The Good Dinosaur last year), it doesn’t recapture the same kind of magic as the original.

Dory (Ellen DeGenerous) is a forgetful surgeonfish with short-term memory loss who is able to finally grasp some memories from her days before meeting Nemo (Hayden Rolence) and Marlon (Albert Brooks) in the previous film; they actually are next-door neighbors, now. When Dory and Marlon have an argument, she sets off on her own adventure to find her parents, picking up clues along the way (and instantly forgetting them), in order to find out more about herself. Marlon and Nemo, after the disconnect, chase after her to rescue her from danger, as she’s heading toward the dreaded Marine Life Institute, where her parents may be kept in an aquarium. Several notable voice actors appear here, notably Ed O’Neill, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Kaitlin Olsen, and Idris Elba.

The emotional resonance, so beautifully played by Finding Nemo back in 2003 is mostly absent in this sequel effort. Although there is one powerful moment, the movie decides instead to ride with Dory’s manic energy, voiced by the always great Ellen DeGenerous. It’s hard to truly root for a character who forgets every piece of information given to her, and there are times where viewing this movie can be a frustrating experience, but it’s not the plot or the characters that are the problem. In that regard, it slides in comfortably with the original, instead, it’s just certain choices made by the film-makers that render Finding Dory to be a weaker effort for Pixar, regardless of how high the standard has become.

The first is that the film leaves behind the tissue-wetting tone of the original and instead opts for funnier, breezier story-telling. This would be fine…if the comedy landed. For the most part, Finding Dory is going to struggle getting a laugh out of anyone past the age line of potty-training, and aside from one “petting zoo” scene with the fish, laughs are almost absent in a film that craves them. There are parts where Dory “speaks whale” which is just a version of her voice that has more echos than normal, and these scenes are so grating that it takes the viewer directly out of the movie. The classic Pixar films, although for kids, were never grating, they worked well for both the adults and the children because of how they were made.

Then, the film entirely falls off the rails in the third act when, somehow, the movie finds a way to incorporate a car chase. As much as I want to recommend Finding Dory, the only scene that really left an impression on me happened before the climax (if you’ve seen it, it’s the one with the shells) that has the same tear-jerk quality of the original. Outside of that, it seems mostly like a corporately mandated year of film-making for Pixar, and although the animation is gorgeous and tries to fit in with the original, we know it’s an impostor. I’ll pass it based on animation and the kids in my theater enjoying it overall, so it’s definitely for families, but it lacks the magic of a great Pixar film, and when it’s all said and done, it will probably end up being forgotten along with several other modern Pixar releases. (Note: if this beats Zootopia for animated feature at the Oscars, I’ma be pissed.)

 

3 stars

 

Finding Dory (2016)

Genre: Family/Animation

Director: Andrew Stanton (Wall-E, Finding Nemo, A Bug’s Life, John Carter)

Starring: Ellen DeGenerous, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Ed O’Neill, and Sigourney Weaver

with: Kaitlin Olsen, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, and Idris Elba

RT Score: 94%

 

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