“Finding Dory” is the follow-up to the Disney Pixar classic “Finding Nemo”, and whilst it isn’t quite as exciting or powerful as the film which bore it, it’s a nice family film.
The story follows Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) as she attempts to find the parents that she was separated from as a child, and this main plot thread does a great job of getting the audience emotionally invested in the titular character right from the outset. You can’t help but feel sorry for Dory as a child because she’s incredibly cute, and the fact that she’s forgotten all about her parents as a result of her short-term memory loss makes her finding them all the more pressing because it just doesn’t seem fair. We know from “Finding Nemo” that she’s a kind and loveable character, so we want her to get what she wants and reconnect with her family.
Still, this perhaps leads into my first problem with “Finding Dory”, which is that there isn’t a lot of character development going on with any of the characters that are carried over from “Finding Nemo”. We’re expected to care about them in virtue of the fact that we cared about them in that film, and we do, but from my perspective this is a hallmark of lazy writing.
I personally don’t see why anyone who hasn’t seen that film would care about any of the characters in this film other than Dory, because existing characters like Nemo (Hayden Rolence) and Marlin (Albert Brooks) don’t do anything interesting, and whilst new characters like Hank (an octopus voiced by Ed O’Neill) and Destiny (a shark voiced by Kaitlin Olson) are entertaining and well voiced they aren’t properly fleshed out. I liked them for what they were (comic relief), and I’m sure they’ll appeal to children and be marketable as merchandise, but they weren’t interesting in any way. This might be a children’s movie, but that doesn’t mean that characters have to be one-dimensional or have motivations that are completely transparent.
Characters like Marlin and Nemo felt unimportant and were horribly underused, which is crazy because they matter so much to the returning audience! The writers should’ve doubled down on them as well as Dory because they are a big part of why people are buying a ticket to the film, so I was amazed by how dull the writers managed to make them! At no point did I ever feel worried for them or emotionally invested in their journey to ‘rescue’ Dory, and more often than not they got in the way of the story rather than enhancing it.
On top of these issues, the main plot device of the film (Dory’s memory loss) was very inconsistent in its application. It seemed to pop up whenever the plot needed it rather than being used in a constant and thoughtful way, which always gets on my nerves even when I’m watching an animated movie aimed towards families and children. The way that Dory’s memory loss was exploited in service of the plot made her affliction annoying rather than endearing, and took away from the likeability of Dory as a character which was a real shame in my opinion.
I don’t want to seem insensitive here or be overly critical because I know from experience that mental illness is unpredictable and attacks at the most inconvenient of times, but it frustrates me that the film doesn’t at least acknowledge the fact that Dory’s mental illness is erratic. A small amendment whereby Dory’s short-term memory loss was triggered by moments of stress and anxiety, or something of this ilk, would’ve solved the problem easily and conveniently.
Despite the negative aspects of the film I did enjoy it for what it was. The comedy in the film hit the mark most of the time, particularly when the sea lions were involved, and I found myself laughing at jokes a lot more often than I was expecting to. They were probably my favourite new characters for the sole reason that they really did make me laugh, and I thought that Idris Elba’s voice acting was great.
“Finding Dory” will please the majority of returning viewers as it hits a lot of the same beats that “Finding Nemo” did, and visually it’s more than interesting enough to hold the attention of younger viewers. However, for me it was lacking in terms of both story and character development, making it rather average overall.