Finding Dory Movie Review

Usually making it somewhere in my top ten list, Pixar movies have a proven track record of putting out quality films at a regular pace.  Last years, INSIDE OUT took my number one spot, so it’s no secret that I have a passion for the company’s work.  As a sequel to the phenomenal FINDING NEMO, FINDING DORY is missing the originality that I usually love from these films and feel mostly like a retread of an already great story. While FINDING DORY might be my least favorite Pixar film (outside of CARS and CARS 2), it’s still a very beautiful, capable and entertaining film with a positive message that families will happily enjoy.

Ellen Degeneres in Finding Dory

Taking place a year after the events from 2003’s FINDING NEMO, FINDING DORY finds Dory (Ellen Degeneres) living near Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence).  When forgetful Dory begins to regain some memory of her family as a lost child, the three of them swim off on an adventure much like before to find Dory’s parents. Their journey leads them to a Marine Life Institute (MLI), a rehabilitation center and aquarium that enlists three R’s as their motto – Rescue, Rehabilitate and Release.  In trying to locate the exact position of her parents (Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy) within the beautiful ocean conservatory, she enlists the help of  a near-sighted whale shark named Destiny (Kaitlin Olson). a believed to have a damaged sonar beluga whale named Bailey (Ty Burrell), and a grumpy yet secretly soft-hearted octopus septopus named Hank (Ed O’Neill).  Preferring the solitude of captivity over the largely populated open sea, Hank is quite the crafty prison break artist, camouflaging himself into just about anything as he searches for a way to a permanent aquarium.  Rounding out some of the comic relief are a couple of lazy, rock snobby, sea lions (“The Wire” alums, Idris Elba and Dominic West).  Sigourney Weaver also has a humorous spot playing herself as the voice of the MLI narration system.

Ellen Degeneres in Finding Dory

Andrew Stanton returns to the directing chair for the sequel. This time with the help of co-director Angus MacLane (TOY STORY OF TERROR). Stanton created the characters and help write the screenplay for both FINDING NEMO and FINDING DORY (he also directed my favorite Pixar film WALL-E), so the subject matter is evidently close to his heart.  FINDING DORY shows that passion for the world within the story once again, using breathtaking visuals and captivating characters.  All the vibrant colors and diverse sea creatures form a living, breathing underwater sea life that is unmatched on film.   Even the darker moments seem to capture the essence of the ocean.  But something feels a bit more constrained the second time around, or perhaps simply too familiar.  We know the characters, the jokes, and the story arcs before they happen. Ultimately, we aren’t surprised by much of anything on the new journey. The filmmakers seem to be aware of this as they even work in a “What Would Dory Do?” motto that helps the characters along.  I guess that’s one of the pitfalls of sequels, but I was more impressed with how MONSTERS UNIVERSITY was able to go a completely different route from MONSTERS INC.  Sure FINDING DORY is still cute with a positive message and the humor works in a light smiling way, but nothing that feels as fresh as the usual Pixar originality.

Ellen Degeneres in Finding Dory

One of the delights to seeing any Pixar film is the Animated Short that comes before it.  PIPER follows a baby sea bird getting accustomed to the ocean. Exquisitely detailed and full of adorable heart, PIPER is another addition to Pixar’s long running success in the animated short business. Both the short and the PG film that follows are more than appropriate for families of all sizes. Similar to the shark scene in FINDING NEMO, there is a chase scene involving a hungry squid that might give the extra little ones a scare, but nothing to cause pause any differently from other Disney films.

While FINDING DORY is ironically a bit more forgettable than its predecessor and other Pixar films, it’s still better than nearly every other movie out. Flashbacks of wide-eyed baby Dory are heart-crushingly lovable and the film still manages to find that small tug at the heart strings moment. While it’s mostly a watered-down retread, I’m sure FINDING DORY is a welcomed retread to pursue for most audiences. With a positive message that has a universal appeal, it’s no accident that a “Hang In There” Kitty poster could be seen on the wall in one of the scenes.  But that famous encouragement soon might be replaced with a new spokesman fish. If life ever seems to get you down, do what Dory would do – Just keep swimming.

OVERALL 3.5
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