Monday, June 27, 2016

2 Summer Sequels: FINDING DORY & INDEPENDENCE DAY 2 – Guess Which One Doesn’t Suck

ilm Babble Blog is back! I have returned from my summer vacation, a wonderful trip to Iceland with my wife and her parents, and am refreshed and ready to tackle a couple of the latest movie offerings. And it’s a couple of summer sequels which I caught up with at the Mission Valley Cinema multiplex in Raleigh over the last weekend.

First up, there’s Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane’s FINDING DORY, the long awaited follow-up to one of Pixar’s most beloved (and profitable) productions, 2003’s FINDING NEMO.

Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres wonderfully reprise their roles as the voices of Marlin and Dory, an orange over-protective clownfish and a regal blue tang fish, while 11 year old Hayden Rolence takes over the role of Nemo, as the original’s Alexander Gould is too old to voice the part (he does get a cameo though).

As one can guess from the title, this time Dory goes missing when she’s captured by pesky humans and taken to the Monterey Marine Life Institute.

This is after we learn Dory’s sad back story – how she got lost from her parents (voiced by Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton), and searched the cold, dark depths of the ocean. looking for them as she grew from being voiced by Sloane Murray, the 7-year old daughter of producer Lindsey Collins into DeGeneres’ distinctive Dory diction.

Marlin, and Nemo, with the help from a couple of cockney sea lions voiced by Idris Elba and Dominic West (a mini-The Wire reunion!), a whale shark (Kaitlin Olson), and a beluga whale (Ty Burrell), along with various other aquatic characters, attempt to rescue Dory, while she makes a deal with a cranky seven-armed red octopus, voiced by Ed O’Neil, that he’ll help her get out of the institute so she can go find her parents if she’ll give him her ID tag 
so he gets to go to Cleveland in her place.

Of course, you gotta expect themes about family, and being in the moment like Dory - “be like Dory” becomes Marlin's mantra at a crucial moment. Everyone needs to find their inner Dory, the film appears to advise.

FINDING DORY is a solid sequel, gorgeously animated (the Open Ocean Exhibit sequence particularly pops), with countless gags that land (love the Sigourney Weaver running gag that I won’t spoil), and all the right kind of emotional feels. Sure, there’s still a predictable formula at play, but the formula works because they truly take the fish out of the water. 

With a lot of the action happening on land, director/co-screenwriter Andrew Stanton and the creative crew here came up with tons of clever ways to keep the fish alive by jumping from buckets to cups or going from spouting geyser to geyser, right up until the crazy climax that involves ducks, a stolen truck, and a police blockade.

Of course, it’s not as fresh as the first time around, and with Pixar’s upcoming calendar being clogged with sequels (THE INCREDIBLES 2, CARS 3, TOY STORY 4) it’s easy to be cynical about yet another franchise, but if the quality control is as high as it here, I’m not going to scoff at the idea of a third FINDING film.

If only that were the case with Roland Emmerich’s INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE, the 20 years in the making follow-up to the highest grossing film of 1996, INDEPENDENCE DAY, that takes the term “unnecessary sequel” to staggeringly new lows. The difference between this and FINDING DORY is that with DORY people actually liked the original; I don't know a single person who's a truly, unironically, a fan of the first ID4 (such a stupid acronym).

Anyway, Will Smith’s character was killed off between films, but Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch, and Brett Spiner are back for the second invasion by the aliens who come now in a spaceship that’s 30,000 miles wide. That’s what director Emmerich and the four other screenwriters, including James Vanderbilt (ZODIAC – yay! THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN movies – boo!) took away from such sequels as JURASSIC WORLD, which had the biggest dinosaur ever, and STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS, which had a Death Star that was 10 times bigger than the original – that is, make the threat BIGGER.

The plot is exactly what you think it is – aliens attack, we fight back and win. So we’ve got a bunch of incoherently shot and edited dogfights in the second half with series newcomers, Liam Hemsworth and Jessie T. Usher (playing the son of Will Smith’s character) as badass fighter pilots attacking the massive mothership, while the rest of the cast is running around below trying to find out if the new alien spaceship is compatible with the new Apple MacBook Pro.

ID4 2 (is that the right acronym?) is a dreadful, boring experience, made worse by unconvincing CGI and horribly written and acted dialogue.  The only memorable line is spoken by Goldblum: “they like to get the landmarks.” 

The first one was bad but at least it had some semblance of character developement and plotting. This one doesn't even try for either - it just wants big thrills and fails at that.

I saw this POS for free and still felt ripped off. Here’s hoping it doesn’t gross enough to justify a sequel – the plugging of which at the end of this is one of the most cringe worthy movie moments of the year.

More later...

1 comment:

Zach Murphy said...

Welcome back!

Finding Dory is definitely a worthwhile sequel. As for ID4 2... I haven't mustered the strength to sit through it yet.

Nice reviews.

- Zach (