The film opens with a beautiful display of the ocean we’ve come to love with Pixar’s “Finding Nemo.” The rays of sunshine peeking through the water, the sounds of fish swimming from one reef to another — it’s beautiful.
Visuals and near-perfect animation didn’t save “Finding Dory,” though.
The film takes place in a familiar ocean where Dory strives to reconnect with her parents. With flashbacks galore, we learn how willing Dory’s parents were to work with their fishy-daughter and her short-term memory loss. Baby Dory is undoubtedly adorable in every sense: large, beady eyes, a small, round frame that your grandma would cuddle and a bright, blue body.
Nemo and Marlin wind up joining Dory in her quest to find ma and pop. Familiar faces make brief appearances (“Noggin! Duuude!”) and new additions, such as Hank the Octopus (voiced by Ed O’Neill), try to provide color to an otherwise dull journey.
This film isn’t rinse and repeat, but it doesn’t provide a fresh addition to the franchise. Pixar’s standards are high up the totem pole, so my expectations were hardly tempered. I chuckled, said “Aww” internally, but it wasn’t enough. The story’s shallow and doesn’t make the viewer long for more of what is the same. I didn’t even shed a tear (Pixar is good for three tears a film).
The biggest takeaway is “Finding Dory” not being shy to explore the topic of mental disorders, which I happened to appreciate. Dory overcoming her short-term memory loss is a moment that children and parents can use as motivation; it’s a heartfelt thematic element used to connect with audiences who share similar disorders. It worked for a while, but there was a notable drop-off point near the third act that made me feel void of emotion. Seldom did I crack a smile or laugh, but I did think of checking my watch.
On the topic of mental disorders, there are a couple of scenes with one of the sea lions that made me question the seriousness of director Andrew Stanton tackling this issue. The sea lion with mental retardation was called upon by a pair of sea lions, who are obvious kings of that exhibit and perched up on the rock in the middle of the water. The two sea lions teased the mentally-challenged sea lion with a few seconds on he rock if he’ll give his pail to Nemo and Marlin.
This sea lion looked extremely, albeit unnecessarily, goofy, was bullied by the two sea lion kings and provided what the film intended to be… comic relief? So, “Finding Dory” is using mental retardation as an avenue to grasp a few unwarranted laughs? These moments took me out of the film for minutes as I attempted to grasp what I witnessed.
Critics and almost every friend of mine adored this sequel. It scored highly on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, so what gives, right?
This isn’t a horrible film, and it won’t make you walk out asking for your money back.
However, there were too many negatives in this ocean, and I couldn’t find the charm its predecessor cultivated.
6 adorable fishes/10
Follow on Twitter: @JamesProfetto