FINDING DORY (2016, Andrew Stanton & Angus MacLane)
A seismic improvement in animation from NEMO, which shouldn’t be a surprise — Pixar was already great 13 years ago but the leaps from UP to BRAVE to INSIDE OUT have been tremendous. The textures and layers here are intricate, creative, and aesthetically pleasing — a joy to watch. As a sequel, this is perfectly fine. It’s funny, fast, and should please NEMO fans and kids new to the franchise. But just like its predecessor, it isn’t really very substantial in its message and doesn’t have the adult appeal that top Pixars like WALL*E and TOY STORY 3 have had. Even NEMO had more of an emotional pull than this, which doesn’t really get any points docked for failing to choke you up — but Pixar has set such high standards that a movie that’s merely entertaining and well-put-together doesn’t rank among its best.
DeGeneres and Brooks continue to find a groove with their voice performances, though this time their characters are rarely on screen together. Brooks’s Marlon is reduced to sidekick role in a movie that could really be titled DORY FINDING DORY’S PARENTS. When Ed O’Neill and Ty Burrell are talking to each other (as an octopus and baluga whale, respectively) you’ll think you’re watching an episode of Modern Family in some sort of Disney-ABC corporate synergy marketing assault, but they’re pretty funny nonetheless. And a car chase at the end — while absurd and unbelievable even in a fish-can-talk world like this — is still quite well directed and as good an action scene as Pixar has ever done. It’s just that after a heart-wrenching movie like INSIDE OUT, which explored the depths of sadness and the complexities of growing up, something that just amounts to “Just keep swimming” and “family is important” won’t make much of a dent.
Note: I saw this in 3-D, which I tend to dislike, but with animation it usually isn’t too much of a detriment. It’s fine here but doesn’t seem to add a whole lot. The pre-film short “Piper,” however, uses 3-D in glorious fashion. It’s seductive, graceful, and even finds a way to blend the form with its content. Not only that, but it says as much in six minutes about facing the scary world outside as FINDING NEMO (not to mention DORY) does in 100.