Friday, June 17, 2016

Finding Dory Review

Pixar is at again with their 17th feature-length animated film in Finding Dory. For the longest time, Pixar was nearly a flawless animation company. From Toy Story (1995) to Toy Story 3 (2010) they didn't make a bad film. Sure, I wasn't a huge fan of Cars and the politics that they shove down your throat in WALL-E bothers me more than most people, but they were still good movies. The last five years, though, has been a little bit of a different story. Cars 2 was a disaster. Brave was fun, but it felt like a cliche Disney princess movie more than a Pixar movie. Monsters University was very average. Inside Out was a grand slam hit, but then they followed that up with The Good Dinosaur, another disaster. So yeah, it hasn't been as smooth of a road recently for Pixar. And honestly, Finding Dory is a movie I really can't say I was excited for. I like it better when Pixar is doing original films as opposed to sequels and this didn't seem like a sequel we needed. I loved seeing how excited Ellen was to do this, but when the trailers came out, I felt like this was going to be a carbon copy of Finding Nemo. So no, I wasn't excited. Hopeful, yes. Excited, no. But man I was blown away by this movie! I had an absolute blast with Finding Dory and I'm happy to say that this is another gem in the Pixar legacy!

First and foremost, this actually isn't a carbon copy of Finding Nemo. It definitely pays homage to its predecessor in many and does follow a similar formula that Finding Nemo followed, but it's its own movie. The movie isn't a story where Dory gets lost and Marlin and Nemo have to go search through the ocean to find her and bring home while Dory meets some new fun sidekicks in a place where she gets trapped. That's what the trailers made it seem like. But it's more than that. In fact, if you wanted, you could switch around the title to Dory Finding instead of Finding Dory because she's never really lost. Sure, she gets separated from Marlin and Nemo for some time, but they're just as lost as she is and it's more of a story of them trying to find each other while Dory is searching for her parents because there's several moments where she's saying something, someone is saying something, or someone does something that triggers a memory for her and she is instinctively out to use that memory as a clue to find where her parents. In typical Dory fashion, she doesn't stop to think twice or analyze the situation in order to make a decision, she just does whatever comes to her mind. And since she is bound and determined to find her parents, we are taken on quite the wild ride with her.

The biggest question that people always wonder when you make a movie centered around a side character in another movie is can that side character hold their own when they are put center stage? The answer here with Dory is a definite yes. I don't know how many people got annoyed with Dory in Finding Nemo, but she was one of my personal favorite parts of that movie. Ellen DeGeneres as Dory has always been a match made in heaven. It may be the best voice casting ever in a Pixar movie. Ellen herself is one of my favorite comedians. She is just so fast and witty with her humor that it cracks me up. Just like her character of Dory, it doesn't seem like she stops and thinks about what she is going to say, she just says what comes to her mind and her timing is always so perfect that it is hilarious. I absolutely love her. And she definitely knows when to be serious when that is necessary. That makes her perfect as Dory because Dory is Ellen and Ellen is Dory. Ellen definitely knows what to do when she's put in the lime-light and she is absolutely at the top of her game for the entire movie. I'm pretty sure I was laughing harder and more often than anyone else in the theater with me, even all the kids, because I love Ellen and this was Ellen at her best.

The other thing I liked is that this did have the magical Pixar touch. By that I mean that Pixar has always been good at pulling at your heartstrings and giving us an emotional movie. Some movies they hit harder than others, but all of their movies have feel-good stories behind them, making them great for kids and great for adults. On a scale of Cars 2 to Toy Story 3, how hard does Finding Dory hit emotionally? Somewhere in the top half of that scale. It's not anywhere close to something like Toy Story 3 or Up in terms of emotion. I wouldn't even say it hits as hard as Finding Nemo. But it definitely hits you good. Dory is someone who really struggles with her memory loss. This causes her to be frustrated at herself and understandably lose a lot of self-worth. What is she good for if she can't even remember? Not all of us suffer from the same thing Dory does, be we all have our weaknesses and limitations that can cause us to be harsh on ourselves or question our self-worth, but this movie does a pretty good job of teaching us that whatever our weakness is, we can turn that into a strength. The issue may not go away, but we can learn to deal with it in a positive way and learn to love ourselves for who we are and know that we can do good in the world and that really touched me.

I'm not going to tell you what happens in the second half of the movie, but there's definitely several different directions that they could've taken this movie. If I'm being nit-picky, I honestly think that the movie would've hit even harder had if they had gone a certain direction that I thought they were about to go. But they didn't. It still worked out for me. It just wasn't as emotional as it could've been. And speaking of being nit-picky, this isn't as good as Finding Nemo. The adventure, the story, the emotion, and the side characters were all superior in Finding Nemo than Finding Dory. But do you know what, this didn't need to be as good as Finding Nemo, which is a personal top five Pixar movie for me. This just needed to be a good movie and that's exactly what it is. I will say that it is faster paced than Finding Nemo. The majority of the movie takes place at an aquarium in Morro Bay, California and the movie takes you all over the place in that aquarium in fantastically ridiculous style. In fact, in certain places it felt a little too over the top to the point where I felt like it was a Fast & Furious version of Finding Nemo, but that's not necessarily a bad. I kinda love that franchise. It was kinda fun having turn-off-your-brain action sequences in a Pixar movie. We even got a little bit of Inception homage at the end. It was great!

So yes, I had an absolute blast with Finding Dory. No, it's not as good as Finding Nemo, but it didn't need to be. But it was a lot closer to that mark than I initially thought it would be. In fact, last year I did a blog post where I ranked all of the Pixar movies that were out at the time. If you never saw that post, I just made a link to right there for you to check out. On that list, I had Finding Nemo at #5. Not even Inside Out with all its brilliance was able to break my Pixar top 5, so at this point its hard for Pixar to top movies that are nearly animated perfection, so I don't expect them to top the best of the best. I just hope for a good movie out of them and that's what I got. If I were to put Finding Dory into that Pixar ranking, I would put it at #8, which is right behind Up and right before Toy Story 2. That's some pretty good company and a few notches higher than I was expecting going in. I obviously don't need to try to convince you to go see this movie. You were all planning on it anyways. But I am happy to report that I personally loved it. It was a crazy fun ride, it had me laughing out loud throughout, and it had a good amount of heart to it. Well done Pixar! My grade for Finding Dory is a 9/10.

Next up for Pixar: Cars 3 (2017), Coco (2017), Toy Story 4 (2018), and The Incredibles 2 (2019). Let's continue this positive trend!

1 comment:

  1. Great review. Definitely a worthwhile sequel.

    - Zach (