Thank you, Pixar.
Years ago my now-wife and I went to see a particularly grim horror movie. Despite “watching” the entire film through her fingers, as though she could shield her face from the gallons of blood ’n guts on display, the creepfest jangled her nerves so badly we had to go see Finding Nemo directly afterwards as a palate cleanser.
Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Dory’s (Ellen Degeneres) underwater road trip to find Marlin’s lost son Nemo, coupled with gorgeous animation and warm-hearted humour, calmed her and because of Pixar there were no bad dreams that night.
Roger Ebert called the family classic “a delight,” and parents snapped up so many of them it became the best-selling DVD ever. Disney is clearly hoping those good feelings have lingered over the 13 years since Nemo first made a splash. This weekend Finding Dory enters a crowded summer season, one already stuffed to the gills with sequels, reboots and reimaginings.
The original cast return (save for Alexander Gould who aged out of voicing Nemo) along with Idris Elba, Diane Keaton and Kate McKinnon. Will that be enough to mine gold when recent sequels have come up empty?
Hollywood wisdom says audiences want familiarity, characters and brands they already know and love, but this year moviegoers have rejected repackaged ideas. Zoolander 2, Ride Along 2, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, The Huntsman: Winter’s War, Alice Through the Looking Glass, X-Men: Apocalypse and TMNT: Out of the Shadows all under performed in what the Hollywood Reporter is calling the Summer of Sequelitis.
For the record. I think Finding Dory will do just fine. Not just because Pixar is the gold standard in animation or because it has a story audiences will connect with but because it’s good.
Do I think moviegoers are suffering from Sequelitis? No. Many of this year’s sequels have stiffed because they weren’t very good. The best thing about Zoolander 2 is that it was so unfunny it’s hard to imagine Ben Stiller and Company making a third.
Perhaps the dip in box-office returns for cinematic re-treads is just what Hollywood needs and they’ll realize a constant diet of movies with numbers and colons in the title — or worse, both, as in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising — is not as appetizing to audiences as they think.
Executives are scared. Pitch Perfect 3, the planned follow up to the $287.5 million grossing Pitch Perfect 2, has been delayed while Universal waits to see whether the sequel slump is a passing phase. In the meantime, expect more than one sequel-crazed studio suit to say, “Thank you Pixar,” when Finding Dory reels in the top spot.