Finding Dory is a film as unable to focus and as instantly forgetful as its protagonist. Though its creativity abounds, its average visuals and impossibly nonsensical script throw it beneath even Cars 2’s wheels.
In most ways, the script of Finding Dory never should’ve sold. Director/co-writer Andrew Stanton (who also wrote and directed the original Finding Nemo) can’t focus on a single idea or plot thread for more than a minute or two. Though the overall concept of Dory’s search for her long-forgotten parents easily compliments her character in theory, in practice Finding Dory runs like a series of wildly disconnected vignettes, each strung to the other by ludicrously random plot devices that seem to exist not out of story necessity, but to stretch what should have been a half-hour short to a full-length movie. Marlin, Dory, and Nemo need to cross from the coast of Australia to California? Don’t worry, the surfer-dude turtle from the first film can transport them to the exact location they need to be in just a few seconds. Dory about to reach her destination and find her parents? No, instead let’s throw in a distracting sign to lead her in completely the wrong direction.
Dory and the supporting cast of aquatic characters are as engaging as in most Pixar films (with the exception of Dory’s parents, who seem saccharine and idealized to the extent that they unintentionally channel the creepiness of the button-eyed figures of Coraline), but the world they inhabit is bland. It’s colorful, for sure, but while one of Pixar’s primary strengths is their ability to transport viewers to other worlds (the first Finding Nemo did this better than any other Pixar film, capturing the beauty and danger of the ocean in a way that a human could never experience), Finding Dory elects to take us to…an unremarkable aquarium.
And maybe an aquarium is a better use of a child’s time than Finding Dory. While an aquarium can teach them the beauty of the ocean, Finding Dory can teach that severe mental disabilities can simply improve nearly to the point of vanishing if you will them away hard enough. While an aquarium can simultaneously enchant the adults, Pixar’s signature older-audience appeal is relegated here to a single sex joke (yes, you read correctly, a sex joke). Or better yet, return to the original Finding Nemo, whose perfect composition and cinematography, mature yet approachable story, and consistent balance between poignancy and humor make it a joy to watch a hundred times over. As for its sequel, Finding Dory has lost its way.