By: James M., Teen Blogger
Something that I probably should clear up in advance is that I’m a fairly caustic critic, particularly when it comes to movies and other storytelling mediums. As such, while I may dislike certain aspects of a feature, others likely won’t share my sentiments.
Now, onto the review. Be aware that it does contain some vague spoilers.
In case you’re strapped for time or can’t be bothered to read the rest of my critique, here’s the short version: Finding Dory is a good film. If you already plan to see it, odds are you’ll forgive its few mistakes or fail to notice them entirely.
However, if you have a bit more time to spare, I’ve obviously prepared a longer, more detailed review. Be warned that I will be potentially painfully honest.
First, the good:
Finding Dory builds on its predecessor without simply milking the success of Finding Nemo, something which I highly respect; at times, it almost seems as though the film actively tries to avoid mentioning its little brother, with the movie only occasionally making nods to the prior movie (usually in the form of self-referential jokes). The events of Finding Nemo are all but skipped in a brief cut at the beginning of the movie. In this way, it could be said that this sequel doesn’t lean on Finding Nemo’s popularity.
The movie’s plot is engaging and constantly interesting to watch, especially surrounding the titular character. Dory’s development as a character is outstanding; we learn about where she came from, what she was like before the events of Finding Nemo, and why she is the way she is. Even with all of her flaws, one can’t help but care about her by the film’s close.
The movie’s message is made abundantly clear by the credits and comes from the heart; however, unlike Inside Out, which made a point to “show, not tell,” Finding Dory doesn’t follow that guideline quite as well, although that by no means ruins the narrative.
The animation quality is top notch, and I’ve come to expect no less from Pixar. The water and lighting effects are stunning and unbelievably realistic, making the sea appear even more beautiful than in Finding Nemo. The film makes excellent use of its stellar animation in a variety of energetic action sequences which liven up the movie significantly.
I should also mention that the pre-film short, Piper, was surprisingly good; it’s no Paperman, but it still manages to convey a touching and engaging story with absolutely no dialogue. While the ending felt a bit abrupt, in retrospect, the film’s length was ideal; had it been any longer, it would have overstayed its welcome and would have likely ran out of material.
Now, for the bad. Mild spoilers lie ahead. If you don’t want to see me critique the weaker aspects of this movie, turn back now.
The plot, at times, feels like a bit of a rehash of the past movie, but superimposed on itself; whereas the previous movie involved a dad trying to find his son, Finding Dory is about a dad and his son trying to find a family friend… while that family friend tries to find her parents. Same varied cast of helpful fish and vicious antagonists. Same stealth, action, and adventure alongside a character’s “jailbreak.” Same themes of trust and the importance of family. While the film still throws enough new content to appease any ordinary viewer, I could trace a number of scenes in the movie to equivalent scenes in Finding Nemo.
Perhaps my greatest complaint regarding Finding Dory is the lack of development its characters receive. In Finding Nemo, it was excusable for characters (like the turtles or the occupants of Nemo’s aquarium) to appear one-dimensional, as they only had center stage briefly and were painted as caricatures from the start. Additionally, the aforementioned characters had a lot of personable charm to them, unlike some of the characters from this second installment. Bar two characters (who were only shown in two scenes), it seems that every character in Finding Dory is either a dedicated parent or has a disability, and in both scenarios, that unfortunately seems to be one of their only character traits. The characters this movie introduces lack a lot of depth and, oftentimes, seem to lack any desires outside of helping Dory; only one new character appears to have an ulterior motive for assisting her, and even he abandons his separate goal on a dime at the end of the movie in order to help her. (I don’t think we’re ever told why he cares so much about his goal either, which disappoints me all the more.) Of course, it isn’t a problem for the characters to care about our forgetful blue friend, but these characters have no motives beyond this relatively weak one.
(Sorry if I seem a little too harsh, but, given the studio’s outstanding track record, I expect nothing but perfection from Pixar. Many of the problems I discuss here are relatively minor and, all in all, don’t dramatically detract from the experience; as I said at the beginning of this review, this movie is good enough to please all but the pickiest of moviegoers [which I happen to be]. If you’re considering seeing this movie, by all means, do so.)
A number of characters in the movie seem to exist solely to propel the plot and are developed even less. Nemo, in particular, fits this bill; he repeatedly eggs on Marlin to the next part of the plot, often so absorbed in his encouragement that he fails to express any worry, irritation with Dory, or panic when things go awry, as one might be expected to do when in his shoes. Fish ”extras” also appear at the end of the movie and, once again, they all seem to care solely about supporting Dory.
The middle of the plot also falls into an unfortunately repetitive pattern; something goes terribly wrong, and our protagonists must work around it- but, before you can catch your breath, something goes wrong with their work-around and the cycle continues. Rather than present the characters with a few large problems (giving the characters enough time to interact with one another and show how they attempt to solve them,) Finding Dory flies from hurdle to hurdle with such speed and regularity that new conflicts begin to feel trivial, and characters seem to find solutions absurdly quickly.
Don’t let my criticisms deter you from watching this film. It deserves to be watched, and it’s certainly far better than most films I’ve seen; I just happen to be an incredibly meticulous moviegoer, and I exaggerate to get my points across. However, regardless of who you are, bear in mind that this movie is not without its flaws. It’s not quite on the level of the Toy Stories or even Inside Out, but it’s a good find nonetheless.