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Finding Dory Review

With a studio as revolutionary as Pixar, it’s difficult to crown one particular film as their crowning achievement.  Many productions on their illustrious resume are considered masterpieces, and have provided audiences with some of the greatest animated movies in cinematic history.  NP-1 While I would easily declare WALL-E as my personal favorite, FINDING NEMO would come in a close second.  The 2003 flick introduced audiences to cute clown fish Nemo, his neurotic father Marlin, and their newfound pal Dory.  These characters became instantly iconic, and now if you stand around any salt-water aquarium tank in the country, you’re bound to hear excited shouts of “Nemo!” from wide-eyed children.

Pixar has released a number of sequels over the past decades, some of which have been spectacular (TOY STORY 2, TOY STORY 3) and others that left the audiences wanting more (CARS 2).  It’s always worrisome when you see that a perfect tale such as NEMO is receiving the sequel treatment, and there is always a genuine sense of fear that it will somehow belittle or tarnish the legacy of its predecessor.  Thankfully, in the case of Pixar’s newest production FINDING DORY, it definitely lives up to its lofty expectations.

DORY is set a year after the events in the first film.  Nemo (Hayden Rolance) has been going to school, and Marlin (Albert Brooks) is doing his best to keep his nervous tendencies at bay.  Dory (Ellen Degeneres) has become part of their family, and while she is as forgetful as ever , she remains a central part of their lives.  Dory seems content and resigned to the fact that her disability is difficult to overcome, but when she starts to have memories of her mother and father, she vows to find them.  She has a vague recollection that they lived in California, and despite Marlin’s protests, the travelling trio garner the aid of some old friends to make the journey across the ocean.

When Nemo, Dory, and Marlin reach California, they become separated.  Dory ends up being scooped up by a human and sent to the Marine Life Institute and the father and son realize it’s up to them to find her.

Once Dory arrives at the Institute, she realizes that this is where she had lived with her parents, and does everything she can to find them.  In order to do this, she has to strike a deal with Hank (Ed O’Neil) an octopus who longs for nothing more than to be sent to live at the glorious paradise known as the Cleveland Aquarium.  As Dory and Hank go to great lengths to find the blue tang’s mom and dad, her background story is established via flashbacks.  There are few who could argue that the wide-eyed, sweet-speaking baby Dory ultimately ends up being the most adorable character in the entire Pixar canon.

NP-2While DORY may not pack the same wallop as NEMO, it is a consistently clever, often hilarious, and always enjoyable.  As she did the first time around, DeGeneres molds the forgetful fish into a sympathetic and lovable character that the audience can’t help but to root for.  While frequently hindered by her short-term memory loss, she develops ways to overcome the disability, and strives to do the impossible.  This, of course, is a lesson that any parent can get behind.  She meets plenty of obstacles throughout her journey, and wrestles with self-doubt and worry, but for the most part, Dory remains resolute in completing her mission.

Credit should be given to directors Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane, as well as the entire filmmaking crew, that they didn’t simply rehash the plot from NEMO.  They could have thrown the main trio back together, make Dory take a wrong turn, and then it is up to Marlin and Nemo to find her somewhere under the sea.  Instead, the film introduces a new location, a heart-wrenching plot (good luck staying dry-eyed in this one) and a slew of new characters.  These new additions are what really fuels the humor of FINDING DORY.  It was great to see a few familiar favorites like Crush, Squirt, and Mr. Ray, but serve more as cameos than anything else.  A fun bit of nostalgia to be sure, but it is at the Institute where we meet the majority of the key players in this chapter.  Sea Lions Fluke (Idris Elba) and Rudder (Dominic West) make the most of their screen time, delivering a number of laughs while perched upon their beloved rock.  Hank, the surly octopus who hates to be handled and wants nothing more than to have a tank to himself in Cleveland, exudes a gruff exterior that is eventually torn down by the delightful Dory.  Beyond these few, there are a handful of other original supporting characters who are unique and memorable.  For me, days later, I still can’t think of Becky the bird without laughing out loud.

NP-3I know I’ve said it before, but it certainly bears repeating now; whether you are a fan of animated films or not, it’s difficult not to be dazzled by the beauty that unfolds on the screen in Pixar productions.  The expansive ocean setting is home to an endless array of wonderful scenic views, and it is  virtually impossible to soak it all in during DORY’s initial viewing.  The same can be said for the Institute itself.  The exhibits are lovely and lavish, bursting with life at every turn.  Creatures that aren’t meant to be the focal point of their given scene come and go within the blink of an eye, yet they are crafted with the same care and precision that was utilized on all of the main characters.  This attention to detail, combined with excellent storytelling and an entertaining script, makes FINDING DORY a must-see family adventure.


A special thanks goes to Regal Cinemas at Destiny U.S.A. for allowing me to attend this month’s film.

Brian Miller