Film Review: “Finding Dory”

Starring the Voice Of: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks and Hayden Rolence
Directed By: Andrew Stanton
Rated: G
Running Time: 103 minutes
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Back in 2003, “Finding Nemo” was the crown jewel of animated movies. After 13 more years of storytelling innovation and cleverness on Pixar’s end, “Finding Nemo” isn’t quite the pinnacle of Pixar’s animation catalogue anymore. It’s known that Pixar is willing to do sequel, just as long as it’s as emotionally resonant and intellectually stimulating as the original. “Finding Dory” does both, even while treading familiar waters.

The protagonist this time around is Dory (DeGeneres), obviously. The blue surgeonfish still suffers from short-term memory loss, but one of Nemo’s (Rolence) class field trips knocks a cobweb loose in Dory’s brain. Memories of her parents come flooding back in an instant. Soon Dory’s head is swimming in a sea of longing and sorrow for her parents. The how’s and why’s of her separation from her parents are still a bit fuzzy, but those will come as the story progresses.

Marlin (Brooks) begrudgingly follows Dory on her journey. “Finding Dory” is a more compact journey. Instead of crossing the vast ocean, the trio heads to California where they wind up at the Monterey Marine Institute and get separated. Dory is snatched up and placed inside the confines of the rescue center. As she slowly makes her way around, Marlin and Nemo spend the movie playing catch-up.

There isn’t any real peril, since the humans they encounter don’t want to hurt them and the other aquatic life populating the Institute are all non-aggressive. But Pixar has always been able to do a lot with a just a little. The smaller confines of the settings give way to Dory utilizing an octopus (referred to as a septopus by Dory because one of tentacles was ripped off) named Hank (Ed O’Neil). Hank provides the out of water transportation for Dory, eliminating a lot of the unique ways that the fish could possibly be using to get around. But that’s just a small complaint in an otherwise nearly perfect film.

Ever since “Cars 2”, there’s been apprehension before every Pixar movie. Especially in a sequel that seems warrantless. But the folks behind “Finding Dory” have repackaged and rebranded what made the first one so good. The animation, as always, is a mesmerizing Kaleidoscope trip through the sea. It’s easy to get washed over by the stunning imagery and forgot about the small little tweaks here and there that continually push what the boundaries of computer animation.

DeGeneres is tasked with carrying a lot of the poignant plot points through Dory. The blue fish that was a gag in the original now provides a lot of the heart-rending story. It’s nice to see the childlike wonder of Dory turn into childlike pain that her parents are gone. The themes are either hidden, creating a greater depth of meaning, or the themes are upfront and in focus so that kids can subconsciously learn and grow in a positive way. Pixar once again finds a way to make adults and kids alike find that soft spot of their heart that brings a tear to the eye.

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