Last year saw the release of Pixar’s fifteenth theatrical film, Inside Out (I’m pretty sure I counted that correctly; fifteen, right?). I don’t know if you’ve seen Inside Out—I don’t even really know who you are—but I saw it and I loved it. Following Brave, Monsters University, and Cars 2, Inside Out offered a return to the unabated magic and ingenuity that defined Pixar for so many years, and if you’re willing to count all three Toy Story movies as one installment, then I’d put it in my top five favorite Pixar movies ever.
They also released The Good Dinosaur, which I haven’t seen yet.
With three Toy Story movies, two Cars, two Monsters, an upcoming Incredibles sequel, an upcoming third Cars movie and yet another Toy Story, 2015 offered respite (and yes, nepenthe) in the form of a couple original stories. And then we got back to sequels.
Finding Dory (2016)
The Plot: About a year after the end of 2003’s Finding Nemo, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), Marlin (Albert Brooks), and Nemo (Hayden Rolence) embark upon a quest for backstory after the forgetful Dory suddenly remembers something about her past. Crossing the ocean a second time, they reach a Sea World equivalent where Dory attempts to track down her long lost parents.
Like Cars, Monsters Inc., and indeed Toy Story, Finding Nemo really, really did not need a sequel. Few movies ever do, I suppose, so the greatest challenge for the makers of a sequel is to convince the audience that the movie they are watching is justifiable. Upon review, I think the real reason they made Finding Dory was because they were out of ideas. 2003’s fish movie is fun, heartwarming, and features Willem Dafoe. The story is self-contained, and very few, if any of us needed to know exactly why Dory suffered from short-term memory loss and where she came from in the first place. I must confess, that never bothered me much in the last thirteen years. But hey, like with Cars, Finding Nemo sold a lot of toys.
Okay, now that I’ve gotten cynicism out of my veins, I can admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of watching this movie. It’s not that great and it lacks the originality of Inside Out and Toy Story and Up and Monsters Inc. and even Finding Nemo, but it has the charm, humor, wit, and heartwarming moments that have come to define Pixar movies. Even amongst their lesser efforts, no Pixar movie has ever put me in a bad mood. A few of them have broken my heart and made me cry quite a good deal more than a grown man ought to at a children’s movie, but none have irritated me. Anyway, we can all use a good cry from time to time.
What Finding Dory lacks in originality it makes up for in cephalopods. Well, specifically one cephalopod, a seven-armed octopus; a septopus, if you will. The creature in question, Hank (Ed O’Neil), encounters a mislaid Dory in the aquarium while on one of his innumerable, increasingly daring escape attempts. Seemingly unperturbed by running around out of the water (I have no idea how accurate that is), capable of camouflage and using his arms to swing around like Spider-man, this octopus definitely recalls some of Pixar’s more ingenious characters. He provides most of the best laughs and nearly all of the clever surprises, as well as occasional spatterings of aquatic wisdom.
Upon hearing of plans for the sequel, and even more so upon hearing of the title, I kind of rolled my terrible eyes. I thought to myself, Finding Nemo came so, so painfully close to overdoing its short-term memory loss joke. Dory always teetered on the line of insufferableness, constantly threatening to plunge herself—and the whole movie—over the edge. And she was a sidekick in that movie. I thought that for sure, putting this forgetful fish on center stage would finally irritate me, would produce the one Pixar movie I just couldn’t stand, but as that studio demonstrates time and time again, I really ought to have more faith in them. Finding Dory is not a particularly necessary movie, or even a great one, but I very much enjoyed watching it. Plus, it was over a hundred degrees outside that day, so air conditioning was a must.