Munir: Hello and welcome to another edition of A Decade of Pixar. This time, we are going to review Finding Dory, the megahit sequel to Pixar’s other megahit, Finding Nemo. Directed again by Andrew Stanton, Finding Dory takes the Cars 2 and Monsters University approach and makes a sidekick the main character, this time the forgetful and adorable fish, Dory. Finding Dory was the first non-Toy Story sequel that was critically acclaimed. It has a 94% score at Rotten Tomatoes, and everyone praised the story, characters, and animation while acknowledging it was not as good as its predecessor. It also was a box office success, earning over 1 billion dollars worldwide, becoming the second Pixar film to do so after Toy Story 3. However, the film didn’t get any major nominations and was shut out at the Academy Awards, with members seemingly preferring the two movies released by their sister studio, Zootopia and Moana. Personally, I find (pun intended) Finding Dory delightful and charming, but also a little bit forgettable. What do you think, Virginia?
Virginia: I think that’s a fair assessment. It’s funny that the film is so forgettable given its content and main character. I believe this is the best case of a Pixar sequel making the sidekick the hero; Mike was OK, but not as good as Sulley, and Mater should have never been the star of anything besides the Mater’s Tall Tales short films. Finding Dory is a pleasant movie, but not one that sticks with you. I remembered seeing it for my birthday in 2016, but little of the film itself, and I had to re-watch it for our review. I do think Moana and Zootopia were both better overall.
M: Agreed. I don’t know what it is, because when you see it, you have a great time. I always enjoy it, but I know Finding Nemo by heart while I really can’t say the names of Dory’s new characters, even though they are OK and add to the film’s story. Zootopia and Moana are more memorable, and I don’t know what it is about Dory that doesn’t stick with me. She’s a great protagonist and her arc is interesting and poignant, but as soon as I finish the film, it fades from my memory.
V: Finding Nemo wasn’t one of my favorites as a kid because my siblings watched it too much (though, to be fair, they probably feel that way about The Incredibles). I have grown to appreciate it a lot more, and it feels more substantive than Dory to me; overall, it feels more dramatic and powerful.
M: Agreed. I feel like it has higher stakes than Dory. You can feel Marlin’s desperation to find his son, while Dory operates at a more leisurely pace. One thing I like about the film is how Dory is always treated with respect. She may have been the funny sidekick in Finding Nemo, but she was never a buffoon (unlike Mater), and I like that her disability empowers her instead of weakening her. That’s a great message that is beautifully conveyed in the sequel.
V: We agree there. However, I think this message could have been strengthened by showing that Dory doesn’t need to overcome her disability to be as good/helpful as everyone else. In the end, she resolves the issue by remembering things, which doesn’t seem right since memory is her disability. I think it would be more satisfying if Dory found a different way to solve her problems. Disability was also a theme in the original with Nemo’s bad fin.
M: I understand what you are saying, but I’m not sure how they could solve the issue. Memory is a tricky thing, after all. Another aspect I like is that they gave Marlin and Nemo an actual arc, even though they are the sidekicks now, and didn’t just sidestep them as they did with Lightning in Cars 2.
V: That’s a good point. A film is more engaging when all the main characters contribute to the story and have their own issues to resolve.
M: Even though they are not that memorable, the new characters are interesting while you watch the film. I especially like Hank and how he helps Dory while also receiving help from her. Destiny and Bailey are nice and funny additions. Bailey’s echolocation gag is good. Also, no surprise there, the animation is absolutely stunning.
V: Destiny and Bailey didn’t make much of an impression on me, but I did enjoy Hank. I thought his interactions with Dory were ultimately really sweet. One thing I love about this movie is the animation. Of course, it has similar visuals to the original, but the technological advancements since then have provided an even greater opportunity to explore the ocean.
M: I still maintain that Finding Nemo is the most beautiful Pixar animated film. I know technology has evolved, but still. Finding Dory is gorgeous as well, but I feel that it loses a little bit once they reach the Marine Life Institute. Of course, it serves the story, but the way they show the ocean in Finding Nemo is unparalleled. The voice cast in Dory is excellent. Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks are in top form, and Ed O’Neill is a great new addition as Hank.
V: They are good here, but it feels like they’re missing something that made other Pixar vocal performances so great and memorable. In fact, I think they were better in the original than they are here. That’s OK, though; they can’t all be Joan Cusack as Jessie or Brad Bird as Edna Mode.
M: I disagree there. I find DeGeneres and Brooks to be one of the best (and most underrated) duos in the Pixar canon. They perfectly embody their characters. What’s your favorite scene from the movie?
V: I think they shine more in Nemo than Dory. Hmm, my favorite scene would have to be the flashback in the beginning. What about you?
M: That one is excellent. I also like the scene when Dory and her parents reunite. To sum up, I think Finding Dory is a perfectly good sequel, one that honors the original and expands the story in a positive way. The only downside is that it’s not very memorable, and it doesn’t have many standout moments like its predecessor. Still, it is my second favorite non-Toy Story sequel (behind Incredibles 2).
V: It may be my favorite non-Toy Story Pixar sequel. I would have to think about that. I agree that it’s a good sequel that actually manages to continue the story rather than retread the original. Sadly, I also must admit that it just doesn’t stick with you like Finding Nemo.
M: That’s all for today. What do you think of Finding Dory? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to come back for our review of Cars 3.