Review: Finding Dory

Finding Dory
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Finding Dory movie review Disney Pixar Ellen Degeneres Albert Brooks

PLOT: After spending most of her life struggling with her memory, kindhearted fish Dory begins to remember snippets from her past, specifically the time she spent with her parents. With her friends Marlin and Nemo assisting, Dory ventures off into the vast ocean in search of her family.

REVIEW: FINDING DORY is far from Pixar's best work and it still manages to be a fantastic moviegoing experience. That may say more about the Disney-owned studio than it does about this particular movie, but they've just gotten so good at what they do that even the projects that would be "great" for any other company are just "pretty good" for Pixar. DORY is in that category, and while it won't be remembered as one of Pixar's classics, it will (to this point at least) be known as their best sequel that isn't called TOY STORY 3.

When it came out in 2003, FINDING NEMO was the movie that cemented Pixar as the animation house to beat. Yes, there had been the two TOY STORY flicks, A BUG'S LIFE and MONSTERS INC., but NEMO introduced us to a world so magnificent and enchanting that it became an instant classic and set the bar very high for the still-emerging studio. NEMO's lush, awe-inspiring underwater setting popped off the screen even without the benefit of 3D; add to that a story filled with heartfelt life lessons (for young and old alike) and alternately exciting and hilarious action sequences, and you found you really couldn't ask for much more from a motion picture. A sequel wasn't necessarily, but 13 years later we get FINDING DORY - once again directed by Andrew Stanton - which focuses primarily on NEMO's lovable comic relief Dory, the plucky, forgetful blue tang voiced perfectly by Ellen Degeneres. DORY, for all intents and purposes, tries to recapture the magic of NEMO by telling a very similar story and replicating many of the first film's transcendent visuals. It doesn't reach the heights of its predecessor and it can frequently resemble a soft reboot as it follows a predetermined path, which we're seeing a lot of nowadays. And you know what, you still smile from ear to ear throughout the entire thing, allowing yourself to get caught up in an adventurous and sweet-natured tale that consistently wins you over.

Finding Dory movie review Disney Pixar Ellen Degeneres Albert Brooks

FINDING DORY is set one year after the events of FINDING NEMO: Dory now lives comfortably with father-son duo Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolance) although her short-term memory issue still persists. One day, while acting as a teacher's assistant for the young school of fish, Dory begins having vague memories of her parents and childhood home, visions that trigger a need within her to find out what happened to her family. Before you can say "Here we go again," Dory is rushing off to California - with Marlin and Nemo in tow - using her brief flashes of recall as clues to the location of her folks. The trio ultimately wind up at a Marine Life institute for ailing aquatic creatures (sort of like a Sea World you can feel good about) where they, of course, get separated and, of course, get into several nail-biting schemes and exploits with all manner of colorful supporting players.

One of the many things Pixar excels at is creating exquisitely detailed characters; every film of theirs brings to life vivid animals, monsters, toys, people, robots, etc. Even their forgettable entries have at least one character you can't stop gawking at. Here Pixar introduces Hank the octopus (voiced by Ed O'Neill at his world-weary best), who acts as Dory's curmudgeonly, crafty man-on-the-inside who helps her get what she wants, all the while plotting his own exit from the facility. Hank is an extraordinary creation; he blends into backgrounds, twirls and flips about the institute with ease, deftly carries Dory around while she blithely follows her instincts. Just marvelous to behold. He's the best newbie of a large batch of enjoyable new friends for Dory, which also include a couple of lazy sea lions (Idris Elba and Dominic West, together again!) and two impaired whales (Ty Burrell and Kaitlin Olson). You're also very likely to love knuckleheaded bird Becky, who proves to be a big help despite her limited intelligence. The voice cast is phenomenal all around, again no surprise; a few acquaintances from the first film pop up as well.

Finding Dory movie review Disney Pixar Ellen Degeneres Albert Brooks

But it's Dory who is the heart of the story. Her memory-loss is used for both comedic and near-tragic purposes; those Pixar mad geniuses can always be counted on to tug your heartstrings one minute then poke your funny bone the next. Degeneres is, naturally, still an excellent choice for the role, her cheerfulness is infectious and her despair is palpable. There are a few extended sequences where Dory struggles with self-hatred when she can't remember what she was doing, and those occurrences are decidedly effective. The movie also plays with the fact that Dory can be irritating on occasion. For all her well-meaning, Dory is a bit frustrating, as she repeats herself over and over, and Stanton knows it and milks that for all it's worth.

FINDING DORY doesn't quite have the emotional sting as Pixar's best; its predecessor has a few supremely moving moments in it, and while DORY will certainly get you a little misty-eyed at times, it doesn't really hit NEMO's high notes. Nor does the sequel feel as innovative or flat-out beautiful as Pixar's 2015's efforts: INSIDE OUT and THE GOOD DINOSAUR, the former of which is one of the company's most unique films, the latter one of their most visually majestic. But even if it's not a revelation in any particular department, DORY makes up for it by being incredibly entertaining, racking up a bevy of sequences that are just plain fun. The aquarium provides a number of fantastically innovative escape scenes (almost all of DORY's action revolves around escaping from one confinement or another), each one more daring and crazy than the last. You won't find much "believability" factor in DORY (you've got to assume a human would see some of the absurd things these fish are doing), but you shouldn't come to an animated comedy seeking out plausibility. DORY is at its best when its going fully gonzo, and it goes gonzo pretty often.

It's a bit predictable at this point to anoint the latest Pixar film a home run, but FINDING DORY is indeed that; a vibrant, energetic comedy with the expected dose of profundity sprinkled in. It may not be a grand slam like some of their others, but you'll still take a homer, right?

Source: JoBlo.com



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