Sunday, November 27, 2016

Finding Movies with Gus: Minor Pixar

Movie Review: Finding Dory

Directors: Andrew Stanton and Angus McLane

Reviewed: Started 1 August 2016; Finished 12 November 2016

jamesintexas rating--***

"Gus, did you like Finding Dory?"

"It's okay."

"Why did you like it?"


We took our almost-three-year-old son August to see his first movie, and Finding Dory seemed like the best option. He's seen Finding Nemo, and despite lots of uncomfortable questions like "Where's Nemo's mama?" the colors and brightness captivated him. Now, this review acknowledges that I did not see the entire film; we took a ten-minute walk break in the middle of the movie. 

The film is light and fine, but it has nowhere near the humor and emotional resonance of the first film.  How could it?  "Just keep swimming" is a slogan that I repeat nearly everyday at the high school I teach at, and the colors of the ocean world in that film never cease to amaze me.

Here, Pixar uses flashbacks to cute little Dory's childhood and traumatic separation from her parents to create a kind of mystery.  Most of the main characters are back from the first film (except Bruce and the sharks, sadly), and although the world of the aquarium and its denizens is quite fun, it never soars in the same way as the original.  The voice work is incredible, and many of the sequences work well, but it lacks the gusto and the heart of the original.  The epiphanies of Marlon and Nemo in the first film work on such an elemental level, and in this film, Marlon is really sidelined and reduced to a minor character.  That being said, the seals are wonderful, the septopus has great moments, and there is lots of razzle-dazzle.  But, just like the Monsters Inc. sequel, it seems a diminished return to the world of a masterpiece, and on some level, a cash grab with just enough in it to satiate fans of the original but not to break any new emotional or artistic grounds. 

I don't know what we'll see next with Gus.  His mama took him to see Storks which he loved and still talks about a month later.  He does not talk about Finding Dory.  Maybe Moana will be next up?  He is currently obsessed with Super Why, Super Readers on Netflix, but I feel that if we have the choice, we will always return to the first film and not its sequel.  We will see. 

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