The moment so many of us waited for finally came, and I have to say, I’d hoped for better. I understand in most cases the sequel cannot and will not measure up to its predecessor and I assure you, nor did I expect it to. It just didn’t work for me. The film begins similar to Finding Nemo. We are taken back to a bitter sweet moment from the past with an introduction to baby Dory and her parents and sweet little Dory expresses that she worries that someday she may forget them. As adorable as little Dory is, the whole perfect and happy family ordeal seemed a bit overdone like the director simply tried too hard to create the most heartwarming exchange they possibly could to try and manipulate it’s faithful audience into falling for this particular image.
Next we get to see a montage of Dory growing up all alone and constantly asking strangers who pass her by to help her find her parents whom she can’t really remember let alone remember how, when, or where she lost them and ok, this is heart-breaking, which is the perfect set up for Dory’s tragic story. Just like Marlin got his tragic intro in Finding Nemo. My problem though, it that next we finally come to the point where she meets Marlin, the sequence we all know so well and love. But the recreation of this scene was different from how it happened in the first movie! This is the change they made:
Finding Nemo scene:
Marlin: I have to find the boat.
Dory: A boat? Hey, I’ve seen a boat!
Marlin: You have?
Dory: Uh huh. And It passed by not too long ago.
Marlin: A white one?!
Dory: Hi. I’m Dory.
Dory: Ooh, it went uhm.. It went this way, it went this way. Follow me!
Re-creation of this scene in Finding Dory:
Marlin: I have to find the boat.
Dory: A boat? Hey, I’ve seen a boat! It passed by not too long ago. It went this way, it went this way. Follow me!
I think they took out the classic line, “Hi. I’m Dory” from this sequence so that they could use it again later in the film and it wouldn’t seem like they were just using the same jokes from the first film. They use this exact line not much later in Finding Dory. This recreation just doesn’t sit right with me.
Soon we return to the present but this time it isn’t Nemo who impatiently brings an early wake up call, it’s Dory. It’s a new school day for Nemo and already there are multiple exchanges between Marlin and Dory specifically that we saw in the first film. For example, Marlin must try to explain to her that Mr. Ray has requested that she not be present during today’s class since her short term memory loss makes it difficult to keep tabs on her. The way this exchange between our favourite duo plays out is almost identical to the way it does in the first movie when Marlin tries to tell Dory that she is slowing him down (even though that wasn’t the case). The only thing different this time is that Marlin gives up on trying to explain and allows her to take it the completely wrong way in that Mr. Ray is “overworked” and needs Dory to be his teaching assistant. I must admit, that made me smile and it created a nice opportunity for a cute little sequence to follow.
The film continues on like this for quite a while, seeing comedic exchanges we have already seen in Finding Nemo and I can understand that for some, that is exactly what they would want in a sequel. For me, I’d hoped to see very new material to catch me off guard and be pleasantly surprised. All of the incredibly witty one-liners and hilariously unpredictable exchanges from the first movie is what made it so brilliant and enjoyable. I cannot say the same about Finding Dory. To be completely honest, I found myself a little bored. Perhaps there would have been more comedic opportunities if they refrained from splitting up the dynamic duo merely 20 minutes in to the film. By slitting up the two characters that made Finding Nemo what it was, changes everything. Marlin is stubborn, negative and overly-cautious while Dory is his complete opposite and this is what creates the perfect comedic set up for witty back and forth banter. Unfortunately in the short time the duo was together, we mainly saw different versions of conversations that we’ve already seen. Dory and Hank, on the other hand didn’t really work for me as a duo. Hank just uses Dory for her quarantine tag so that he can be shipped to Cleveland and live alone in peace. The next thing we know, suddenly after Dory helps him to escape from an uncomfortable situation, it’s time to say goodbye and they seem like the best of friends. I can see what they were going for but the rushed plot did not allow for any sort of realistic friendship development. Hank’s character definitely had potential with his sad, lonely outlook on life and then meeting Dory and in turn discovering the true value of friendship, but unfortunately there was not enough of a build up for me to truly believe that transition.
One thing I will say though in favour of splitting up our favourite duo is that it allowed for the “What would Dory do?” to come in to play. Marlin and Nemo find themselves stuck with seemingly no way out and suddenly it dawns on them that Dory was always the one who thought of a brilliant idea to get them out of these situations. This aspect of the film honoured Dory’s character in the way she deserved and the idea of splitting Marlin and Dory apart is what allowed this important moment to take place.
Another problem I have with the splitting up of Marlin and Dory is that it seems the reason they did this is to have double the amount of secondary characters. In Finding Nemo, there are multiple secondary characters who enhance the film’s plot and play a significant role in helping the main characters develop in some way. For example, Crush teaches Marlin the importance of a father trusting in his child’s abilities to make their own decisions and figure things out on their own. Bruce and his shark friends and Nigel teach Marlin that friendship can be found within the most unlikely of beings. And finally, Gill teaches Nemo to believe in himself and to be brave when life gets tough. In Finding Dory, the secondary characters we meet along the way can be great for comedic purposes, but not much else. Some I even found to be quite annoying. In particular, Destiny, the severely visually impaired whale shark. Her high pitched voice is enough to handle without the excessive use of speaking whale as Dory did so wonderfully in Finding Nemo. I understand that Dory and Destiny were ‘pipe pals’, growing up together in the marine institute and this is how they learned to communicate, but in the present, they are shown speaking completely normal to each other for one minute and the next, we sit through a long sequence where they help navigate Dory through the pipes and Dory and Destiny speak whale the entire time! Yikes. The excessiveness of the whale talk really took away the enjoyment for me.
Nonetheless, I did enjoy the psychotic bird, Becky because she reminded me a bit of Kevin from Up, although poking fun at a severely mentally ill bird is probably not okay to joke about? Not to mention the strategically placed, adorable cuddly otters and the obnoxious sea lions with territorial issues who bully Gerald for no reason and again, apparently this is acceptable to laugh at. It’s okay guys, we can pretend for a moment that mental health issues and bullying aren’t real problems because this is just a fictional, animated story. What? These characters may have been entertaining, but I cannot help but question the moral integrity of the filmmaker’s ploys to establish these examples of comedic relief.
Next up for questioning is the fact that Dory seemed to conjure up the exact memory she needed at exactly the right time. As soon as she got stuck, there was a handy dandy signifier at her.. fin-tips? These memories also provided her with the exact information she needed to move on. I know, I know. Oh the hypocrisy of questioning the reality within a fantasy world.
I’m almost finished, I swear. I have to mention that just as they begin the film in the same way that Finding Nemo does, they also copy the ending. In Finding Nemo, Marlin has finally reached Nemo and the next thing he knows, he’s looking at his son belly-up in a plastic bag. Naturally, he thinks Nemo is dead and then he isolates himself until Dory manages to reunite them for the happy ending. But, oh wait Nemo and Dory get stuck in a fishing net to help rescue all the others that have been trapped and once they save these fish, then they can go home and be happy. In Finding Dory, They finally reach the tank full of Blue Tangs from the marine institute and Dory is told that her parents have been gone for years and Dory is convinced they are dead. Next thing we know Dory is all alone in the ocean and she spots a shell and then another, and she is lead to the place where her mother and father are. Before we can have our happy ending where all peace is restored, Dory must make sure that Hank escapes from the truck to Cleveland. I get that saving Hank was very important, I just wish it was done a little more creatively rather than completely copying its predecessor.
The final pressing complaint I have about Finding Dory is that the remainder of the film felt dragged on and unnecessary as if Stanton felt the need to make additional problems arise in need of a solution, so that they could extend the narrative for at least another 5-10 minutes. The story of Finding Dory just felt a little too forced and there was not enough substance to the narrative to appreciate. The animation was amazing as always and the adventure was fun and light-hearted which is why I know there are and will be many who adore this sequel, but for me it was just not enough. I hope I did not offend too many die-hard Pixar/Finding Nemo fans. Don’t get me wrong, I’m one of those too in a lot of ways, but this time around, I think we deserved better than this.