Finding Dory is a good film. It may even be a great one. However, beneath the innocent facade it establishes in its generally tightly written comedy, emotionally charged character development, and detailed, fluid animation, there is an unfortunate degree of corporate control and artificiality pervading an otherwise artistically accomplished movie. Although this can be said of almost any decent film made in the Hollywood system, I cannot stress enough how terrible the homogenization of art for the sake of something more profitable is. The cinematic medium is actively being held back by the very companies that make its survival possible.
So, 13 years after Pixar made one of the best-looking animated films of all time, full of interesting, unique characters and a legitimate degree of originality, we now have a sequel. Finding Dory is every bit as charming and well-made as its predecessor, even with its myriad flaws. However, the fact remains that it is a sequel made entirely to bank off the success of the original film 13 years later, the people, such as myself, who grew up loving the first movie, now donning rose-tinted glasses and a willingness to return to our childhoods with an excess of nostalgia, failing to realize that the things we form nostalgia for are the artistic visions of the creative forces behind the films and the personal experiences we have related to them. Pixar's own Inside Out, released just last year, achieves a feeling of legitimate nostalgia through tonal and thematic elements of youth, a warm, inviting color palette, and, most importantly, the exciting prospect of a new idea with new characters that brings about the same sense of discovery that Finding Nemo did for me as a child. Finding Dory, however, is a film that is marketable entirely out of nostalgia for the original property but has none of these things. It is a film that uses an approach to nostalgia that is charming purely because it tells you it is charming, using tangible details to invite the audience into its generally unimaginative grasp.
The film continues to attempt to evoke these feelings through a blisteringly fast-paced first act that goes between establishing new information concerning Dory's origins and retreading ground of the first film in a way that feels overly truncated and lacks any degree of emotional force. The very beginning of the film show's Dory, lost, trying to find her parents between childhood and adulthood, and, for what it's worth, this scene is legitimately effective. The film uses its aquatic setting with actual purpose, emphasizing the vast emptiness of the ocean in order to evoke a naturally somber mood. It all fits well and feels complete. However, once the plot reaches the present and starts moving forward, it begins to lose this perfectionism, instead opting to show a sequence of events that don't actually mean anything. One year after the events of the first film, Dory tags along to school with Nemo to help the teacher, which does establish the impetus of the narrative when the subject of migration comes up and Dory realizes she doesn't know her family. However, it makes no logical sense that Dory could live with a father and son for an entire year and never make this connection. This scene exists entirely to bring back the teacher character from the first film and does nothing else. When she decides to search for her family, she immediately starts to travel in the direction in which she thinks she may find them, and Marlin caves and goes with her after a single conversation. Marlin's entire personality is based on being too safe and never having any willingness to take chances, and yet he still makes this decision in a little under a minute. There is no attempt to portray him with any kind of realistic response to this new conflict, there is no implication that more time passed between scenes, and he still makes this incredibly daring choice based on the slight urging of Dory and his son. This could have been an intentional decision done in order to show that the character development from the first film stuck, but his arc in this film still revolves around being more willing to take risks. Everything concerning this scene is contrived and rushed for no real reason and comes off as being either lazy or poorly thought out.
Scenes such as this one establish a serious issue that pervades Finding Dory, and that is a lack of attention to detail. Even in Inside Out, a film that is by no means flawless, there was a degree of subtlety that showed that the artists and creative leaders in Pixar had thought through the symbolism and deeper meanings that each scene could have, and the film was clearly made by passionate individuals who were making their work out of a desire to express something and make legitimate art. Finding Dory, however, is a product made in a cinematic factory. Its raison d'etre is capital gain. Its thematic crux is profit. However, in order to really delve into what's wrong with this film on a fundamental level, I need to go into spoiler territory. If you don't want to know how Finding Dory ends, this is your warning.
The third act roughly begins when Dory learns that her parents are dead. She reaches a tank full of other fish of her species who tell her that her parents went missing trying to find her, and it's a legitimately very effective scene that allows for some introspection from Dory as she realizes that her parents loved her enough to sacrifice their own lives in the slight chance that they could find her. It's thoughtful, subtle, and intelligent. It is soon revealed, however, that her parents weren't dead and had in fact been living in solitude for years waiting for Dory to come back. It is never explained why they never made any attempt to return to their tank and tell their friends that they were okay. The revelation that they were dead exists purely for the sake of emotional manipulation. The only possible reason for trying to keep the ending as happy as possible is that, as a kid's movie, going in too dark of a direction might be a bit overpowering, but that ignores the fact that legends such as Walt Disney and Don Bluth have approached death in intelligent ways without losing interest from their target audience, and even other Pixar movies have used it as something more than just a plot point. This entire segment of the story just comes off as disingenuous and immature.
I honestly can't recommend Finding Dory, no matter how much I enjoyed it. Time and again, the films that are legitimately worth supporting fail in the box office while the films that are guaranteed success to begin with are overwhelmingly successful. Nobody saw Hardcore Henry, but everyone saw Captain America: Civil War. Everyone is responsible. I didn't see Anomalisa, or Green Room, or The Witch. Nobody did. The film industry doesn't evolve because we won't make it evolve.