Pixar’s latest animated outing (and its newest sequel in a string of them), “Finding Dory” again returns audiences to the wide open ocean, picking up soon after the conclusion of 2003’s smash hit “Finding Nemo” to again set off on an adventure that’s all about family and feelings. This time around, it’s the notoriously memory-challenged Dory (voiced again by Ellen DeGeneres) who must cross the sea to find her own family, after a little knock on her noggin makes her remember some very important details about their supposed location.
It’s a long-awaited sequel from the animation house, and one that sounds like a very worthy follow-up to Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich’s original, one of Pixar’s marquee properties and a beloved fish tale that’s managed to maintain its popularity over the intervening years. Can its sequel do the same?
IndieWire’s Senior Film Critic David Ehrlich writes that “‘Finding Dory’ doesn’t feel lazy, cynical, or like a rehash. On the contrary, it does what a sequel should — it’s a compelling argument for why we make them in the first place.” He adds, “what the studio’s latest lacks in originality, it more than makes up for in feeling. As with most American animation, which is traditionally rooted in fairy tales, many of Pixar’s films are constrained by an instructively moral logic — these may be movies that appeal to adults, but they’re packaged for kids who are looking for someone to help make sense of their world.” Overall, the film seems to have hit Ehrlich right the feelings, and he rated the film at a B+.
Variety’s Chief Film Critic Owen Gleiberman agrees, deeming it “a movie totally worth its salt water. It’s a film that spills over with laughs (most of them good, a few of them shticky) and tears (all of them earned), supporting characters who are meant to slay us (and mostly do) with their irascible sharp tongues, and dizzyingly extended flights of physical comedy. The images never stop dazzling us with their awesome, tactile sheen — their oceanic incandescence. (Who needs 3D glasses? Even if you happen to see ‘Finding Dory’ in 2D, just about every shot in it pops out at you with beauty.)”
They’re not the only critics who are captivated by the possibility of an actually good sequel. Uproxx’s Mike Ryan writes, “There’s been a lot of talk about unnecessary sequels lately, with the trend of bad box office for those sequels. Honestly, I don’t think the answer is that difficult – and we can use Disney’s ill-fated sequel from a few weeks ago, ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass,’ as an example. No one was asking for an ‘Alice’ sequel, but we got one anyway – but it’s a bad movie. Probably more people were open to a ‘Nemo’ sequel, but what we were given with ‘Finding Dory’ is a good movie.”
Still, living up to an original (especially one as lauded as “Finding Nemo”) can be tough. Screen Daily’s Tim Grierson writes the film “isn’t as emotionally nuanced as the original film, but while the robustly entertaining sequel doesn’t have the same thematic richness, it’s still potently poignant and willing to deal with loss in aggressively sombre tones.”
Time Out’s Anna King gave the film four stars out of five, but still makes note of the film’s slightly disappointing place in Pixar lore. She writes, “While ‘Finding Dory’ is definitely the kind of visual pleasure we’ve come to expect from Pixar, its storyline doesn’t always reach the heights of inventiveness upon which the gigantic animation studio has built its reputation. The film lacks the psychological probing of ‘Inside Out,’ the existential ponderings of ‘Wall-E,’ the gentle, stoic sadness of ‘Up.'”
Over at Entertainment Weekly, Chris Nashawaty also can’t shake off comparisons. “Unfortunately, you also feel a sense of déjà vu. Dory’s quest to be reunited with her parents is more or less the same exact fate that befell poor little clownfish Nemo the first time around. It’s as if the movie has a case of short-term memory loss, too.” Nashawaty did, however, ultimately give the film a B rating.
One big outlier on the “Finding Dory” charm train? The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy, whose review comes right out of the gate with an admission that “‘Finding Dory’ falls rather short of its wondrous progenitor.” For McCarthy, the problem is a common one with sequels: It’s just not as good as the original. He later adds, “while rambunctious and passably humorous, this offspring isn’t nearly as imaginative and nimble-minded as the forerunner that spawned it.”
Just keep swimming, y’all.
“Finding Dory” opens on Friday, June 17.