Outside of Toy Story Pixar’s never had much luck with sequels. Cars 2 and Monsters University both lacked any real reason to exist, though they at least tried to branch out in new, if in Cars 2’s case stupid, directions. The same minor praise cannot be given to Finding Dory.
The plot this time is that Dory, living with Marlin and Nemo in the reef following the first film, suddenly remembers where her family are on the other side of the ocean and the three set off to find them in a public aquarium/fish hospital. After making the trip Dory gets captured and put on display, after which she must find her parents and escape with the help of an misanthropic, amputee octopus called Hank, a nearsighted whale shark called Destiny who she may have known as a child, and a beluga whale called Bailey who’s lost his ability to echolocate.
The main problem with this film is that it’s largely just a retread of Finding Nemo. Dory’s arc of getting over her short-term memory loss in that film is undone so we can have her go on the same journey this time, and while the depiction of her struggling with her condition feels like an attempt to retroactively change the first movie’s ‘you can get over disabilities by trying hard’ message, they do that exact same message with the beluga whale in this one. For a film about a group of disabled fish the tone is all over the place, never tragic enough to play Dory’s illness for drama nor right to play it for comedy. There are also a common loon and a sea lion whose stereotypes, and I would never use this to describe anyone, but the first word they brought to mind was ‘retarded’. The new characters also just aren’t that interesting. Hank is uninteresting, unlikable and has a face that looks distractingly like the underside of an erect penis. Destiny and Bailey are somewhat likeable but not notable enough to say much about.
The film also feels like it was made by people who last saw its predecessor a decade ago, since there are many things that movie made a point of that have been completely forgotten. Someone tapping on or shaking a tank or bag with a fish in it is now completely okay, as Hank shakes Dory’s environments constantly without anything bad happening. The filmmakers have also forgotten that Dory found it easier to memorise things earlier by repeating them over and over, but neither she nor Marlin think to do that this time, leading to me (in an empty cinema row, thank god) silently yelling “P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney you fucks!” over and over.
This is not a terrible movie. The central drama still kind of works and there are some good jokes, but it lacks any reason to exist. It’s so slight in comparison to Pixar’s other, better works and if I remember what happened in it in a week I’ll be very surprised.