Loads of Laughs & Memorable Moments
It was only a matter of time before Dory got her own picture. Granted, no one could have imagined it would take Pixar 13 years, but we’re finally going back to Nemo’s reef to pay another visit to the forgetful blue tang and her finned, scaled, feathered, and tentacled friends in Finding Dory, Pixar’s 17th feature and 4th sequel to date.
Pixar once again provides a magnificently rich story full of delightful characters while at the same time immersing it all in a tack-sharp CGI world full of beautiful colors, lively characters, and breathtaking scenery. Though this revisit lacks the same degree of emotional heft of the original, it’s darned near good enough to change one’s unfavorable opinion of sequels; and it more than makes up for the shortcoming with loads of laughter and endless memorable moments sure to entertain the masses, six to sixty. If the lines at the advance screenings of Finding Dory are any indication, this one is set to blow the roof off the box office.
With family as a central theme, this sequel tells the backstory of Finding Nemo’s lovable blue tang who helped Marlin (Albert Brooks) find his lost son in the original. Writer/Director Andrew Stanton fills out his title character who blossoms from her two-dimensional comedic side-kick self into a fully developed big-hearted lead character worthy of her own feature-length story.
The film opens with Dory as a baby blue tang telling everyone she meets that she suffers from remembory loss. Her doting parents’ (Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton) worst fears are soon realized when Dory wanders off and can’t find her way back home.
We pick up the story with Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) as an adult, her cute little baby tang voice and bulging eyes replaced by a cute little adult tang face and same bulging eyes. She remembers her parents in flashbacks but can’t recall where they might live. Her search for them eventually leads to California’s Marine Life Institute, an ocean life rescue and rehabilitation center where she believes her parents might be.
Structurally, it’s very similar to Finding Nemo, with many of our old friends from that film popping back up now and again (yes, Nemo too) during Dory’s quest to find her mom and dad. In fact, our initial thoughts are that this will be a simple cash-grab rehash of the original. But there’s plenty of new characters to meet along the way, including Hank (Ed O’Neill) the cantankerous Octopus, er septopus, Becky the cockeyed seabird, Destiny (Kaitlyn Olson) the near-sighted whale shark, and Bailey (Ty Burrell) the beluga whale who carries on about his failing sense of echolocation. Everyone is as physically flawed as Dory herself -- they’re in a rehab center, get it? But one of the film’s best character appearances might come from the cameo of Sigourney Weaver as Sigourney Weaver. You’ll just have to see it to understand why. Pure genius.
Whereas her short-term memory loss was used strictly as a comedic element in the original, here Stanton gives Dory’s disability very real consequences and a real-world relevance. Though she’s having a good time with her close friends, she’s constantly worried about what might happen if she gets lost again. The awareness of her own shortcomings has made Dory totally accepting of everyone she encounters in the Marine Life Institute, and she is nearly oblivious to their disabilities -– a much-needed message in today’s world of increasing intolerance for those who are different.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Pixar film without the traditional opening short. This one is from WALL-E head animator Alan Barillo and is titled Piper, the wonderful and uplifting story of a frightened baby sandpiper who overcomes his fear of the surf to invent a new way of digging for crabs –- the perfect lead-in to Dory’s bigger tale.
(Released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and rated “PG” by MPAA.)
Review also posted at www.franksreelreviews.com.