If you are into Pixar films, or if you have kids, there’s not really a question of if you’ll watch Finding Dory, but there may be a question about when. The record-breaking opening for an animated film of $136 million suggests that many of you have already seen the movie, but for those who have not yet done so, you should feel no urgency to see it on the big screen before it becomes available for home viewing, where even then it’s only worth a rental, as it is not likely to land on your kids’ regular rotation of animated films.
To put it on a scale with other Pixar offerings, it doesn’t measure up to the original, Finding Nemo. It is better than the Cars sequel and the Monsters, Inc., but it’s nowhere near as good as the Toy Story sequels. It’s also better than last year’s Good Dinosaur, but falls well short of Inside Out.
It’s a fine movie that calls back to some of the better moments in Finding Nemo — the whale sounds, the turtles — and that also recycles much of the storyline. Finding Dory sees Dory recollect a few early memories of her parents. With the help of Nemo, Marlin, and a few additional characters — including the spectacular Hank, a gruff octopus with a soft heart voiced by Ed O’Neil; and Destiny, a near-sighted whale voiced by Kaitlin Olson — Dory tries to retrace her steps in an effort to locate her Mom and Dad. She gets separated from Marlin and Nemo along the way, and while she’s searching for her parents, they are searching for her.
Finding Dory is not without bits of magic, and the movie is still brimming with charm. Unfortunately, it often feels like it’s trying too hard to manipulate the heartstrings of parents, as though making us weep was a substitute for better storytelling. Likewise, the finale feels like something out of a Michael Bay film. Dory is also not nearly as funny as Nemo, and many of the jokes themselves are reworked versions of similar jokes in the original.
It’s a solid outing for Pixar, but it’s not in the same class as Zootopia or The LEGO Movie or Frozen. When it comes to Pixar, even in the money-grabbing sequel era of the studio, we expect more. Dory is good, but it’s not Pixar good, and after Inside Out, we know they’re still capable of it.