Our reaction: Meh.
It wasn’t =bad=. But neither was it =good.=
Hank the septopus (an octopus with a missing arm) was awesome, and stole the show. The camouflage and disguises he uses are screamingly funny, and his propensity for escape is realistic, if everything I’ve read about aquarium octopi (septopi?) is true.
However, Dory as a main character doesn’t work very well. Her relentless optimism is a plus, but her famous forgetfulness, which is funny in a supporting character, makes her problematic when she takes center stage. She is able to remember things when it’s convenient for the plot, and never any other time. There was also no explanation for her memory problems. Her parents don’t share it, and neither do any of the other fish like her. So why is Dory forgetful? This is never explained. The settings is also dark and grim. We keep returning to the same kelp forest, where the lighting is dim and the colors are muted. The aquariums that make up most of the rest of the show are sterile, empty cubes of water, or rusty, nasty pipes, or (in one memorable scene) a battered mop bucket. There are a few exceptions, but gross and grim rule the set, which drags down the audience.
There was also too much back-and-forth in the plot. As in, Yes! We found Dory’s parents! No–just kidding. We didn’t. Yes! We found them now! No–just kidding. They were moved. Yes! We found them at last! No–just kidding. They were moved again. This kind of stuff happens all throughout the movie, and rather than building suspense, it becomes frustrating and annoying.
Also, by setting the movie in an aquarium theme park, Pixar boxed themselves in, and had no good way out of it. The main characters are continually casting about for ways to get from Point A to Point B. Hank the septopus is the only character who can reliably get from one tank to another, but there is a lot of silly scooping Dory into cups, coffee carafes, and even sippy cups in order to bring her along for the ride–which is what she usually does; just come along for the ride. Since she can’t do anything in the environment of the aquarium, Hank has to do everything while Dory just sits in her cup and talks to him, or screeches in fear whenever they tumble down some stairs or rush headlong down a ramp or something.
All these flaws obscured the fun parts of the film, and stopped it from being a solid, enjoyable sequel. In retrospect, I would rather have waited for the DVD.
–Steven Harper Piziks