Director: Andrew Stanton / Script: Andrew Stanton (story), Victoria Strouse / DP: Jeremy Lasker / Editor: Axel Geddes / Music: Thomas Newman
Cast: Ellen DeGeneres / Albert Brooks / Ed O’Neill / Kaitlin Olson / Hayden Rolence / Idris Elba / Dominic West / Bill Hader
They tried to make me go to rehab, I said let’s Find Dory instead!
Pixar’s ongoing, existential question is this: What is it for?
From being a cutting-edge production and story house to rival Disney, it then merged with its one-time rival and arguably suffered a brain-drain of its brightest talent, that left it an also-ran. After all, technology had moved on, allowing other studios to acquire kit of equal power to what had given Pixar its original edge.
Pixar was now a marketing machine, rather than a film-maker with Indie sensibilities. It had become that which it intended to avoid.
There’s another aspect to this. Now we’re at the point where, visually, anything is possible films – especially ‘animations’ – are now artistic, rather than technical expressions. More than ever, it falls to STORY – the writing – to act as the spine.
Pixar’s coterie of writer/directors could easily have made careers in ‘regular film’, but chose Pixar because of its potential and the support (read: time) it gave them to Get Things Right. These days however, the studio’s original maxim of putting story first, seems to have been forgotten along the way; ignored against the forces of corporatism, timidity and all the crap that led to Disney’s own nadir in the Eighties, before The Little Mermaid kickstarted their revival. I’d say that Finding Dory is Pixar’s equivalent to The Black Cauldron.
Bear with me and consider the following: First, both studios lost their ways, following the death of mercurial, visionary leaders. Key creative talent had either retired or got ‘kicked upstairs’ to management, leaving the ship rudderless. Now tied to a corporate anchor and release schedule, the original maxim was sidelined. How else to explain the troubled gestations of Brave, Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur… Then there are the sequels that just amplify the creative vacuity (Cars 3, anyone?).
And so we come to Finding Dory, another sequel that answers a question that – literally – nobody (apart from Ellen DeGeneres and her agent) was asking. Oh, and Director Andrew Stanton, who needed rehabilitation after the fiasco that was John Carter (of Mars, lest we forget) and found it in his original hit.
I think the script labours over Dory’s affliction (mawkish, hand-wringing, preachy) and some of the business in the marine park gets stale, fast. There are a few standouts (the soaring joy of seeing the Manta Rays being a highlight for me), but they’re all too brief.
And the ending? Talk about jumping the shark…
If all Pixar is going to give us are more retreads, then its existential right to exist remains in question. Right? Well, the film grossed over a $1Billion all-in, so I’m obviously a lone voice on this one, but I do believe that, in the long-term, the only way for Pixar to stay, well, Pixar, is for it to remember what got it there in the first place. Stick to the knitting, if you will.
Wait, what’s that? Toy Story FOUR? Oh…
I just want to live in a glass box alone. That’s all I want.