I remember when I first saw “Finding Nemo.” It was a particularly hot summer’s day in 2003 when I went to the theater with my cousins It was the same summer that my family moved away from the home I had lived in all my childhood – a home complete with a pool, diving board and slide.
It is for this reason that “Finding Nemo” holds a special place in my heart and memory. Pixar Animation Studios is so successful because it knows how to exploit those last bastions of innocence and mystery: the power of a child’s playthings, the complexity of one’s emotions, the creepy crawlies of the earth and, of course, the deep blue sea.
Nemo was a hit. The movie grossed over $900 million and spawned the pop culture phrases like “touch the butt” and “fish are friends, not food” and even the fictional address of P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney.
When I watched “Finding Dory” (released June 17, about 13 years after its predecessor), I couldn’t help feel the way a person does when a new narrative is added to their sentimental and formative memories. In other words, I found it a somewhat unnecessary follow-up to an already perfect movie; like another chapter tacked on to “Citizen Kane” or “Casablanca.” In my opinion, Pixar sequels have only been triumphant for the “Toy Story” franchise and nothing else.
Before I’m burned at the stake for such horrible blasphemy, “Finding Dory” is not without its merits. In it, we learn about the history of the eponymous and forgetful Blue Tang voiced by Ellen DeGeneres. Little Dory is as cute as a button and the opening scene with her parents (voiced by Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton) will melt your heart into a puddle of salt water. The main action, however, takes place a year after the events of “Finding Nemo” when Dory sets out to find her family off the coast of California with the clownfish father-son duo of Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence).
Their non-journey with the help of some familiar shelled friends brings them to a marine life institute and rehabilitation center off the coast of California whose spokesperson is Sigourney Weaver for some reason (not complaining, just confused). Here, we meet a few new and fun characters such as a near-sighted whale shark named Destiny (Kaitlin Olsen), an echolocation-impaired Beluga whale (Ty Burrell), and a helpful sea lion (Idris Elba in his second animal role for Disney this year). Personally, my favorite was Hank, an octopus with only seven tentacles (a “septopus,” really), voiced to crotchety perfection by Ed O’Neill. Hank is like the Bogart of the place, he don’t stick his neck out for nobody and only wants to retire to a quiet aquarium in Cleveland.
There are some creative scenes that will draw a laugh or two like one that turns the two-finger petting rule in aquariums into a horror sequence. But, it’s still just a repeat of the jellyfish forest scene from the first movie. In fact, “Finding Dory” is a lesser rehash of “Finding Nemo.” The theme of how far we’ll go for the ones we love is definitely touching and tear jerking, but we saw it done better and on a greater scale in the first movie where there was more at stake. There’s no real villain or threat or even adventure in this film unless you count a short encounter with a giant squid and a car chase climax near the end. It was more satisfying to see Dory and Marlin traverse the entire ocean to save Nemo against the ticking clock that was Darla than it is to see Dory navigating her way around a marine life institute for a while.
That being said, the animation is gorgeous; the opening short titled “Piper” is really cute; the end credits scene is totally worth it; and Thomas Newman is at his enigmatic best with the score and Sia’s ironic cover of Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable” is beautifully haunting.
“Finding Dory” is not a bad movie and it will prove to be a magical experience for today’s young kids who are new to Pixar, but it just pales in comparison when stood next to a classic like “Finding Nemo” and it certainly doesn’t hold a candle to last summer’s “Inside Out.” Yes, I cried, but more out of nostalgia than anything else!
All in all, it was just hard to forget my deep-seated feelings for the original movie. Instead, I would have preferred to get the “Incredibles” sequel (coming in 2019) sooner than this one or even an original story for that matter. But, as fate — that cruel mistress — would have it, we’ll have to sit through a third “Cars” before that glorious day comes.