Pixar certainly takes their time with some of these sequel projects. This time around, we’re Finding Dory. Otherwise known as Memento for kids. The plot shares some obvious connections to the original classic. Two of the three protagonists traverse the ocean in a search for the third. This lost character receives his or her own story with some new friends in an encased location. The formula wasn’t broke, so they didn’t fix it. With that said, Finding Dory does stand on its own as another Pixar success.
The biggest trap facing this film was what I refer to as a character hangover, mostly because I first felt it in the Hangover movies. When a side character is a big hit, usually a comedic one, studios have a tendency to beat that character to death in an attempt to drag out the tired franchise. We could just as easily call it Minioning. Finding Dory could’ve very easily amounted to 90 minutes of “Oh look, she forgot again. That’s hilarious.” And the nature of Dory’s lovable character certainly ties back to her inherent forgetfulness. However she finds layers in her own adventure that earn her place as a lead character. While funny as ever, Dory doesn’t need to be the comic relief of her own movie. She even plucks at the Pixar heartstrings with adorable flashbacks and meaningful messages.
There isn’t much of a negative thing to be said about Finding Dory. The film’s only drawback might be where it ultimately falls among the Pixar ranks. You’ve seen these themes and stories before. Most of those adventures, including this one’s predecessor, are probably all-around better movies. While that’s a pretty unfair way to judge their latest project, it is something you can’t help but factor in if you’re a fan of the studio. The more you obsess over these comparisons, the less you’ll appreciate a great movie that doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. The story is strong, the characters are fun, the humor is consistent and the animation itself is beautiful. Even the short that introduces the film is among the best animation I’ve ever seen, and it perfectly establishes the tone that Finding Dory maintains.
Coming off the heels of the very self-aware Zootopia, Disney seems to be growing cheekier in their old age. And that’s not a bad thing at all. The facility that serves as Finding Dory’s primary setting is oddly reminiscent of Disney World’s Epcot, home of both the Finding Nemo attraction and some scientific celebrity guidance from none other than Ellen Degeneres. Dory even goes so far as to say she doesn’t know how you’re supposed to do this entire park in one day, something you’ll often hear about Disney parks. The company’s evolving sense of humor mirrors their undying ability to stay atop the animation world.
Neither Finding adventure is among my favorite animated movies of all time, just from a personal preference standpoint. But I’d have to place Ellen/Dory in the top five or so voice acted characters in Pixar’s history, maybe Disney as a whole. She lends as much personality and charisma to the character as a Blue Tang fish can possibly have, and then some. People often look to the superhero genre in reference to characters that could simply never be played by anyone else. Whether it be RDJ’s Iron Man or Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, some actors just own their roles. Pixar and Ellen share a similarly irreplaceable fish.
A movie with no real mistakes isn’t necessarily a perfect one, but it is nice to leave a theater unable to complain about anything. We probably could’ve survived without one of the four action/escape sequences that piece together a lengthy finale, but each climactic moment is as entertaining as the last. Ultimately, Finding Dory is a fun time that doesn’t necessarily make history. Pixar manages to outdo themselves when one of their films pushes the entire animated genre forward. Movies like Toy Story, Wall-E, Up or Inside Out are historic accomplishments that raised the cinematic bar for not just animated features, but all of film. I think we can forgive the fact that, this time around, all they did was make a great movie.