If you liked Finding Nemo, but thought it was too long or stands on its own too well, Lee has a review of Finding Dory just for you!
A fun exercise budding writers may try once or twice for good practice is one in which they artificially extend an existing story, often one with a definitive ending, by inventing conflicts before and during the existing events and having these form an alternative resolve that, ideally, both informs and explores further the pre-existing narrative.
What’s most interesting in the exercise is that writers can learn a lot about ‘forced conflicts’; that inventing drama and fleshing out side-characters does not always equate to a more compelling story and often feels superfluous to the narrative as a whole. Set-up complete; enter Finding Dory.
Aside from its extraneous relation to Finding Nemo, a story it not only follows-up on but actually requires from the audience a strong connection with for a number of its key moments to pay-off (such as Marlin’s entire arc), Finding Dory makes a number of mistakes even in the aspects of its narrative that are wholly independent.
Dory’s short-term memory loss, a uniquely conflicting issue in and of itself as it tries to balance being funny, charming, emphatic and challenging at the same time, acts as the plot-forwarding device as Dory pieces together her past in her attempts to find her parents. The issue with this device is that, at any point, the narrative can be advanced at any random time with any fleeting reference or off-visual cue, leading to a disconnect with the audience as we can’t predict when something will trigger with Dory and so can’t root for her when she makes a link.
Working with the logic that a good puzzle or mystery gives us all or just enough of the information to remain invested in the unravel, Finding Dory withholds every bit of information until the moment it’s relevant, meaning the film maintains a directionless feel throughout. One could argue that the narrative is simply reflecting Dory’s state of mind, in that she doesn’t know what’s happening until she knows, which might work if this were a slower, more focused character piece. However, in the spirit of a fast-moving action-adventure, Finding Dory feels like a rollercoaster in the worst sense: a pre-meditated, on-rails experience that might elicit some emotion on the twists and turns, but all of which are reactionary as we simply can’t fully predict or anticipate what’s coming to commit or invest ourselves.
Some good jokes (the sea lions in general were hilarious), the lovely setting, most of the new characters and the compact scale of this smaller Finding adventure will likely be picked up as a good time for the kids watching, and it is certainly entertaining when it wants to be, but too much of the movie rides on a faulty plot device and a predictable message of ‘family is what you make of it’ that, while good intentioned, feels exactly like a conflict imagined around a story in a creative exercise to create a sequel to Finding Nemo, not something that naturally came of its own accord.