FILM REVIEW – FINDING DORY. With the voices of Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Ed O’Neill, Sigourney Weaver. Written by Andrew Stanton. Directed by Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane. Rated PG for mild thematic elements. 95 minutes.
Although its thirteen years after “Finding Nemo” (2003), only one year has gone by in the world of Nemo (voice of Hayden Rolence) in FINDING DORY, his father Marlin (Albert Brooks), and their memory-impaired friend Dory (Ellen DeGeneres). As the story sets in motion, Dory recovers a dim memory of her parents (Eugene Levy, Diane Keaton) and sets out on a search for them.
Dory is separated from he friends but they all wind up at an aquatic park and preservation site in California which contains a running joke involving the actress Sigourney Weaver. It is at that point that the film really gets under way. It’s less about finding Dory than about Dory finding her parents. Along the way she encounters a variety of comical aquatic life, particularly an octopus named Hank (Ed O’Neill), who becomes Dory’s grudging ally in her quest.
While this isn’t likely to achieve the classic status of the “Toy Story” sequels, it’s an immense improvement on the tired rehash of “Monsters University” and the trainwreck–or car wreck, if you will–of “Cars 2.” Still it should be noted that while it is fun and entertaining, there was no real reason for this other than to cash in on the reputation of the popular original. We get some backstory on Dory’s life that doesn’t do much to deepen or enrich the universe of the characters the way the “Toy Story” sequels did.
The important thing is that it will entertain today’s youngsters as well as the adults who accompany them. One reason is that the Pixar crew has gone back to emphasizing characters. It’s not only the talented voice cast. It’s also the quirky personalities the characters have, from a near-sighted whale to two sea lions who don’t want to share their rock to Dory’s parents who are truly touching in their unconditional love for their memory-challenged offspring.
It would be interesting to see the two films together because whether the scripts work–as they usually do–or not, the Pixar technique keeps advancing. Whether underwater, at the surface or out in the air, the animation is realistic without being overwhelming (Hank the Octopus is a visual marvel). The variety of aquatic life is likewise impressive, even if they’ve been anthropomorphized into talking characters. One can only hope Pixar has enough integrity to preserve the history of their films rather than to give into the temptation to “upgrade” the earlier work.
“Finding Dory” is a solid effort and a nice comeback from last year’s “The Good Dinosaur,” but make no mistake––unlike last year’s brilliant “Inside Out,” this is not the best American animated feature we’ve seen this year. We’ll see what’s to come but pride of place still belongs to the non-Pixar “Zootopia.” In the meantime, audiences for “Finding Dory” shouldn’t be disappointed.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is “Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide.” He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.