There are lots of animated films coming out right now. Therefore, I’m doing an Animation Week¹ here on the blog, finishing with:
What sounds like a joke from a Robot Chicken sketch about how Hollywood, in lieu of original ideas, contine their fad of manipulating people’s nostalgia with remakes/sequels to films that don’t require them, has once again been made a reality in the form of Finding Nemo 2. Or Finding Dory as its proper title would be. And of course, plenty of 20-year-old kids-at-heart all over the Facebooks and Tweet-ers have already claimed that this is a sequel they’ve waited to see ever since the first movie came out 13 years ago – even though it was never obvious that Finding Nemo needed a sequel and it’s more likely they’ve waited for the sequel since it was announced by Pixar in 2012 and the strings began to get pulled.
I did become somewhat more enthusiastic about the film after the reviews started popping up. But ravingly positive reviews didn’t stop films like Zootopia or Inside Out from just being “pretty good” as opposed to “excellent”. I tried to keep my expectations moderate walking in, and what I ultimately got was on the better side.
This sequel stars the comedic side-character from the last film, Dory the Paracanthurus (Ellen DeGeneres). Anyone who has seen more than enough sequels will know that making a follow-up film that stars the comic relief of the first movie is rarely a stellar idea (see Cars 2 and Minions for more info), but Dory was always something richer than a one-note comic relief. She had depth and her backstory was left unexplored, which is why this is a Pixar sequel that at least has interetsting material to work with.
She still lives with Marlin the clownfish (Albert Brooks) and his son Nemo, both of whom begin to notice that their friend isn’t feeling too well. As you remember, Dory has a broken memory bank, but one day an image of her long-lost parents (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy) appears in her mind, inspiring her to set out on a trek to find them. Not to Wallaby Way 42, Syndney this time, but to some “jewel of Morro Bay” located in California. The “Finding Dory” part of the title (i.e. the entirety of it) is somewhat misleading since Marlin and Nemo accompany Dory on her quest on don’t really seek for her. That is, I guess, until she ends up in the Monterey Marine Life Institute and befriends a beluga whale voiced by Ty Burrell, a whale shark voiced by Kaitlin Olson, and an intensely loveable octupus (or “septopus”) voiced by Ed O’Neill. It’s a pretty poorly managed place, given the amount of times the octupus manages an escape and also how a fish like Dory is carelessly tossed into the same containment chamber as a whale shark.
Fanservice or not, the inclusion of other memorable characters from the last film feels mandatory. We once again see Mr. Ray and Crush the sea turtle (voiced by Pixar’s own Bob Petersen and Andrew Stanton respectively), and there is a brief apperance of Nemo’s pals from the Wallaby Way fish tank, including Willem Dafoe‘s Gill, Brad Garett‘s Bloat, and Jaqcues, voiced by the late Joe Ranft in the first movie, now played by his brother Jerome, who also works as a character sculptor for Pixar. There’s also Idris Elba and Dominic West as two sea lions, an inevitable John Ratzenberg apperance, and Sigourney Weaver as herself. For whatever reason.
Let us now adress a big talking point with this film. The thing that has made bigots very angry and normal people happy enough: a human lesbian couple appears in one scene, and you can imagine my disappointment upon learning that the rumored gay couple didn’t turn out to be any of the main characters. Furthermore, Ty Burrell and others have claimed that portraying the characters in question as homosexual wasn’t the intention, but who knows? After all, I’ve heard this decision be referred to as a “gimmick” by some; an attempt to make more people want to see another needless sequel by appealing to PC culture with a decision that seems progressive. Similar things have been said about the Ghostbusters remake, but I’m done talking about that at this point.
As much as we can speculate what sexual orientation Dory has, the important thing is that she managed to carry a film fairly well on her own, thanks in no little part to DeGeneres’ voice work, and many of her scenes contain a good amount of heart – as any great Pixar film should. Obviously the film also looks ravishing. The ocean looks equal parts awe-inspiring and threatening, and were it not for the somewhat cartoon-y animals, you could have fooled me that the scenes set inside the halls of the Marine Life Institute were filmed at a real aquarium. If I were to judge the film on visuals alone, it’d probably be an undisputed 5/5.
Still, I wouldn’t say that this is one of Pixar’s strongest outings in terms of story. It does use the original Finding Nemo as a template of sorts and it never matches its predecessor in terms of comedy, drama, scope or realistic obstacles for the protagonists (dumb luck doesn’t begin to cover some of the things that happen in this movie). The merciless adventure of Marlin and the father-son relationship between him and Nemo stuck with me for days – weeks – after seeing Finding Nemo for the first time. I’m not saying I won’t remember Finding Dory fondly – I surely will and I surely recommend it as a family show. What I am saying is that the first thing I wanted to do after seeing it was rewatch Finding Nemo.
1 Yes, I know that it’s a new week, but since I have been writing these reviews within the span of seven days and since week numbers are arbitrary, it still counts. And no, I won’t get in on a debate about whether the week starts on Sunday or Monday since I’m not dumb enough to even consider the option that a week STARTS with the weekend.