**Ahoy Matey, whale sized spoilers ahead!**
Thirteen years ago, like most of the world, I watched as Nemo “touched the butt” and realized an exciting new adventure had been born. I grabbed shell and traveled the EAC, I faithfully memorized P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney, and cried when Nemo and Marlin were finally reunited.
In a world where it usually takes less than 2 years to make a sequel (with some ambitious companies making multiple sequels simultaneously), it took them THIRTEEN years to finally come out with a sequel. Why they chose to wait thirteen years, when all of the kids who had initially fallen in love with it were at least 20 years old, if not older, I have no idea. It is unusual to say the least.
However the deed was done and it was left up to the audience to decide if it was worth the wait. Finding Nemo was an adorable story with brilliant colors that tugged at all the heartstrings. In other words, it was a tough act to follow.
So how did Finding Dory measure up? It was an adorable story with brilliant colors that tugged at all the heartstrings. And yet, for some reason, I didn’t love it.
The story brings back our favorite characters, Marlin, Nemo, and of course Dory as well as introducing us to some new and interesting characters like Hank the Octopus, Destiny the Whale Shark, and Bailey the Beluga Whale. Of the new ones, Hank is perhaps the most outstanding new character as he perfectly embodies the cranky, snarky, individual with a hidden heart of gold that everyone can’t help but love.
The plot is relatively simple: can Dory remember enough details to finally find her long lost family? With numerous insanely adorable flashbacks to an utterly clueless baby Dory, she does eventually find her missing family. The fun part about this movie is how much of it ties in with Finding Nemo. A lot of the idiosyncrasies that Dory displayed during the first movie are actually explained more fully in the second. Everything from what she sang, to how she swam, to her ability to speak whale and read English. For those of us who have a tendency to memorize movies, it’s a gold mine of “spot the Finding Nemo references.”
To be honest, it’s hard to put a finger on why I didn’t love it.
It could have been the pacing. There were several points where the tide moved faster than the plot did. Almost half of the movie was devoted to getting Hank and Dory from one side of an Aquatic rehabilitation center to the other. To be fair, fish are small and the park is big. But the animators felt it necessary to add every single moment of their journey and some of that probably should have been condensed. And then we had to sit there and watch Nemo and Marlin make the same. Exact. Journey. In fact, they spend most of the movie trailing after Dory which meant a fair amount of repetitious scenery.
Another thing left the movie wanting was that there were times when Dory’s inability to remember things seemed like just another overused trope and thus the gag became old. The first time was cute, the second time left you going ‘yes, ha. ha. ha. ,’ and by the 4th or 5th time Dory has forgotten the same thing the response is more akin to ‘yeah, I’m done with this.”
In fact, at one point in the movie, I distinctly remember sitting there staring at the screen in horror going “Please tell me we aren’t starting over,” as Dory was swimming despondently in a circle of nothingness calling out a fretful ‘hello?” when she had spent the majority of the movie having flashbacks of a tiny Dory calling out into the emptiness with a fretful “hello?” Deja vu? Deja vu.
I’m fairly certain I was just as relieved that she found her parents as Dory was.
Earlier I said that I didn’t love it. For me, it would take a lot to beat the original Finding Nemo. But that is not to say I didn’t like it. Despite my list of flaws, the truly wonderful animation showcases many new additions that actually have a role to play within the plot. Not only do we have Hank the Octopus, but an entire troop of lovable otters that pretty much save the day. Never have you wanted to cuddle a wild animal so much. There are many scenes that are absolutely fantastic, not the least of which is the wild ride that Dory and Hank take on a stolen transport truck. And while I may have been relieved when Dory found her parents because that meant that endless saga of forgetfulness was at end, I was also far happier for an animated character than I probably should have been. After all, we’ve been waiting 13 years for this reunion.
I was definitely glad that I went to see it. And even with my judgmental views, I would still recommend going to see it in theaters if you are a fan of Finding Nemo at all. It was a nice cap to the Finding Nemo story arc and like most movies, is infinitely better when presented on a massive screen. It’s not hard to feel like you are swimming underwater with screens that big. On that note, do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT shell out the money to see this in 3D. Usually 3D animated movies are better at bringing out the action to the audience and this probably has something to do with the fact that the characters are created in a manipulatable 3D space. However, there were no outstanding 3D visuals to be had in this ocean at all.
Adults: A feel good animated featuring your favorite childhood fishies. If you are dying to see more of Dory than by all means, head to the theater. You’ll get your wish. Just please save the 3D money for an actual trip to the beach. You’ll be better off.
Children: Why are you still here? Why aren’t you watching Finding Dory? Nothing beats the big ol’ blue! Go out there and grab some shell!
P.S. My friend Claire (ckcasting.com) reminded me of the beautiful animated short that debuted before Finding Dory called Piper. The hallmark of a good animated short is telling a story without the use of any dialogue and this is the sweetest little story imaginable. This amazing short, detailing the adventures of a baby Sandpiper learning how to fish in the ocean waves, is some of the best animated work I’ve ever seen. It was actually more moving than any scene to be found in Finding Dory. It definitely rivals, if not surpasses my love of La Luna and is a credit to director Alan Barillaro.