Director: Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane
Starring: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Ty Burrell, Eugene Levy, Diane Keaton, Idris Elba, Sigourney Weaver, Hayden Rolence, Dominic West
It’s time to head back into the water with our favorite blue fish that suffers from short-term memory loss. As the opening points out, even as a wee little fish Dory suffered from a lack of memory. Your heart breaks when little Dory is out swimming one day and gets disconnected from her parents. Even after a valiant effort, she cannot find them. Years pass and as an adult (DeGeneres) she has long forgotten about this tragic event. The memory of her parents, voiced by the delightful Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton, comes rushing back again with the mention of the water’s undertow by her clown fish friend, Marlin (Brooks). She is bound and determined to set out and find them once and for all. Marlin, on the hand, is leery about travelling due to his own issues about finding his son Nemo (Rolence). There’s a repeated moment from the first film showcasing this to bridge the events in the timeline and explain how this one takes place a year later. Marlin finally agrees knowing the importance of family. Along with Nemo, the three of them swim to California in hopes of finding her parents. Their adventure hits a snag when Dory is scooped up in a net by marine biologists and taken to the Monterey Marine Life Institute. The always-optimistic Dory believes she may actually be on the right track thanks to clues she finds along the way. Meanwhile, Nemo and Marlin stop at nothing to find and rescue their friend.
The geniuses over at Pixar are no strangers at doing sequels. While the Toy Story sequels left you touched and crying your face off, Monsters University and Cars 2 did not fare so well. It’s been thirteen years since creator Andrew Stanton introduced us to the lovable Dory and paranoid Marlin. While the other sequels stuck to the same lead characters, Finding Dory slightly shifts that by taking the supporting character of Dory and making her the center of attention while Marlin and Nemo are the supporting players. Sometimes it doesn’t work when you give the comedic sidekick their own movie, as certain qualities of them may not be as charming in a full-scale effort. I had that hesitation going in, but it was quickly squashed. Ellen DeGeneres is just too lovable as Dory. There are repeated jokes and Dory-isms like “just keep swimming”, her forgetting what she just said or did, and speaking whale. While they were cute in the first movie, there’s a depth brought to them in this film that gives the character even more endearing qualities than it did before.
I was a bit surprised to realize that Pixar basically recycled the plot of the first film for this with the title character getting separated from the rest of the characters, but instead of ending up in a fish tank, she gets lost at an aquarium/research facility. Try not to let that sour your taste on the movie. The kids in the movie theater are not going to care about that concept. The new location provides for more animals being featured like loons, otters, seals, and more human interaction. Pixar’s not too subtle with showing off how kids and adults treat animals in captivity. Andrew Stanton has also opened up his film to be a bit more adventurous. He gives it an elaborate action sequence with Dory and Hank the octopus behind the wheel of a semi-truck with Dory giving directions to Hank who’s controlling the pedals. I’d hate to spoil what has led up to this moment. Modern Family’s Ed O’Neill is another inspired casting choice as he voices the grumpy Octopus who has chameleon-like capabilities.
There are really nice messages for kids about staying connected to what matters most, the importance of family, and succeeding at whatever you put your mind to. Pixar films are not solely for a younger audience, as they always succeed at giving their films that added layer of meaning no matter how old you are. It’s that very concept that elevates them over your standard animated kids movie hoping for a cheap laugh. Finding Dory will touch close to home for parents of kids with disabilities at the way it addresses Dory’s short-term memory. The ending is so sweet and touching, you can’t help but be moved.
Per Pixar tradition, the animation is gorgeous and is extra stunning in 3D. I normally don’t recommend the upcharge as it usually destroys the picture, but I find that it enhances the animation really nicely. Ellen DeGeneres is once again joined by Albert Brooks who’s back as Marlin. New to the Dory family are Ty Burrell, Idris Elba, Dominic West, and Sigourney Weaver. Weaver plays herself as the voice of the Marine Life Institute. Having her in that part is the smallest little touch but feels so unexplainably perfect. Every year I look forward to the latest entry in the Pixar canon. There’s a trust with them where even their mediocre films are still enjoyable. While I wouldn’t rank Finding Dory up in the top of their library, it’s still an admirable portrait of love, loss, and family. On a side note, don’t be late or you’ll miss the darling animated short Piper that plays before the film. And to that point, don’t leave too early or you’ll miss a great cover of “Unforgettable” performed by Sia which plays over the closing credits.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Even though it’s not as creative as the first, both parents, kids, and anyone in between will strongly respond to it.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS