Movie Review: ‘Finding Dory’

Matinee Price with Snacks

If you think this is a shameless sequel bid, you’d be wrong.  Writer/director Andrew Stanton knew he had a character with a Shakespearean degree of tragedy in her past, and now, 13 years after Dory was introduced to the world, we finally get to know her tale.  Fans of Finding Nemo will recall that the beloved blue tang voiced by Ellen DeGeneres has a short-term memory problem and always has.  Finding Dory has a lot of really big gut-busting laughs, but it really has a sad, sweet, emotional center.  Bring a hankie.

No, YOU’RE crying.

Finding Nemo stars Nemo and Marlin return to return the favor and support Dory.  Wisely, the screenplay waves at popular characters (Ray, Crush) from the first film without belaboring them; they are help that doesn’t need to be explained, rather than “and remember how much you liked those Minions, kids? REMEMBER?”  They are organic, serve the story, and don’t wear out their welcome.  New characters sure to charm include Hank, a curmudgeonly mimic octopus voiced by Ed O’Neill; Destiny, a beautiful and myopic whale shark (Kaitlin Olson); and Bailey, a self-doubting beluga whale (Ty Burrell).  Comedic side characters in the world of Finding Dory are voiced by such luminaries as Idris Elba, Dominic West, Bill Hader, and Kate McKinnon; they all do excellent work with their limited screen time.  I’d like to see a line-o-rama just with the sea lions.  Flashbacks to Dory’s childhood feature her parents, voiced with real warmth and heart by Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy. This isn’t stunt casting just to sell tickets, but to bring great acting and the right voices to every part.

And his three hearts grew one size that day.

Destiny and Bailey pose for a promo pic as if it’s just a cute silly fun day in the ocean!

Dory is the star of this tale; no longer just a positive comedic foil to an exasperated Albert Brooks, she is both a shining example of what a positive outlook and true heart and grit and determination can be. She is also an incredibly vulnerable, quietly desperate, and scared, frustrated being with a truly debilitating memory condition.  She knows she has this problem, she knows she will forget, she’s terrified, but she just has to keep swimming.  It’s heartbreaking and sweet and Thomas Newman’s score plays beautifully underneath it all.  And then comes the hilarity!  Pixar has always been a powerhouse of storytelling, and they never tell a story (cough besides Cars sequels) that doesn’t need to be told.  I adored Finding Nemo and Finding Dory is a beautiful follow-up for her to find her family.

You have never wanted to hug a fish so much.

You might recall that 2003’s Nemo innovated underwater atmosphere in computer animation at the time.  The particulates and the light in that film were top of the line.  Now, Dory finds herself in water as varied as pipe sludge, a sippy cup, a tropical reef, and a Pacific kelp bed, with much in-between.  Every environment feels dense and real, the light filtering through particulates, glass, surf, flotsam, algae, pollution…it’s amazing. I half expect the characters to cough when they enter some of these waters.  Piper, the short that precedes the feature film could be mistaken for photography except for the character face of the lead sand piper and the crabs she meets.  Pixar is top of its game from a technical standpoint as usual, but it always comes back to story, and Dory’s story is as beautiful as the sea.

MPAA Rating: PG

Release date: 6/17/16

Time in minutes: 103

Director: Andrew Stanton

Studio: Disney/Pixar

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