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Finding Dory
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Searching For The Blue Tang Clan"
4 stars

Over the years, Pixar Animation has excelled at any number of things but when it comes to making sequels to their films, the results have been uneven at best. Yes, the two followups to “Toy Story” proved to be just as good, if not better, than the 1995 original but others like “Cars 2” and “Monsters University” felt like ripoffs that were made for no other reason than to sell a half-billion or so each in tickets without putting much effort into doing so. “Finding Dory,” the sequel to their beloved 2003 hit “Finding Nemo,” winds up landing somewhere in between those two extremes. On the one hand, it is bright, funny and exciting and even contains a few moments of genuinely touching emotional power to boot. On the other hand, it is a film that is being asked to continue a story that ended on such a perfectly satisfying note 13 years ago that any further continuation would seem superfluous at best. In essence, it is a perfectly decent film that is undermined only by the inescapable fact that it never quite justifies its own existence as anything other than a much-needed boon to Disney stockholders in the wake of the critical and commercial disaster of Pixar’s previous effort, “The Good Dinosaur.”

You will recall that one of the favorite characters in “Finding Nemo” was Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres), a sweetly daffy blue tang fish who was determined to help panicked clownfish Marlin (Albert Brooks) find his missing son, Nemo (Hayden Rolence) despite the fact that she suffered short-term memory loss that caused her to forget practically everything after about ten seconds or so. In that film, her affliction was deployed mostly for laughs but there is a serious side to it as as well and in “Finding Dory,” that aspect is tackled right from the start via an opening flashback in which we see a young Dory being trained by her loving-but-worried parents (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy) to tell people that she has short-term memory loss in case she is ever separated from them. Inevitably, Dory does get accidentally whisked away from them and before long, not only can she not remember how to get back home, she essentially forgets that she has parents as well. For those expecting nothing but fun and games, this opening might seem a bit bleak, especially coming right at the top, but unless your kids are especially sensitive, anyone who was able to make it through the infamously tear-jerking opening of “Up” should be able to handle it.

Set about a year after the events of “Finding Nemo,” the story proper begins as Dory has a brief but powerful mental flash that reminds her of her parents and the general area where they used to live across the ocean. Armed with these tiny nuggets of information, Dory decides to go out in search of her parents with her surrogate family, Marlin and Nemo, along for the ride. Eventually,they wind up at the Marine Life Institute, a Marineland-like tourist attraction featuring giant tanks for the bigger attractions that cruelly abut the actual ocean so they can see what they are missing, touch pools that allow kids to reach in and grab and examine the smaller specimens and a sightly fearsome behind-the-scenes area where fish are examined and either returned to the ocean or shipped off to Cleveland to become exhibits in a tank. Having become separated from Marlin and Nemo, Dory enlists the aid of Hank (Ed O’Neill), a grumpy octopus who has grown comfortable with captivity and who wants nothing more than to find himself in one of the containers being shipped off to Cleveland. Using Dory’s occasional memory flashes as a guide—it turns out that she did live there with her parents after all—she and Hank sneak around through the entire place in the hopes that she can discover both her long-lost family and a better sense of who she really is.

For “Finding Dory” to work, it has two steep obstacles to overcome. The first is the inescapable fact that the storyline conceived by Andrew Stanton and Victoria Strouse is little more than a riff on the original with that film’s lead and sidekick characters switching places. The second is that Dory, for all of her adorableness, is the kind of character who is perfectly suited to be a supporting character but whose quirks run the considerable risk of becoming irritating once they move to the center stage. Of the two, the former proves to be the more problematic—while little kids who adored “Finding Nemo” may appreciate hearing a favorite tale being essentially retold from a slightly different perspective, others may find themselves disappointed that, after that intriguing opening sequence, the film stuck with the tried and true instead of doing something more ambitious in the manner of the “Toy Story” sequels. (Of course, when your lead characters are fish, your options are somewhat limited in this regard, I suppose.) The film is more successful in handling the Dory character in the way that it quietly but expertly fleshes her out so that she becomes more than just a one-joke character while still retaining all of the qualities—especially her cheerfully straightforward impulsiveness—that made her so endearing in the first place.

As for the rest of the film, it never quite finds the spark that would elevate it to the level of instant classic but there are still any number of pleasures to be had along the way. Once again, Pixar demonstrates a smart touch in regards to finding the perfect voices for their characters—besides those already mentioned, there are also funny turns from the likes of Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, Idris Elba and one whose name I shall not reveal because to do so would ruin what is arguably the single funniest joke in the entire film. There are a lot of laughs to be had as well as well as some quieter character-driven moments that are just as effective. Visually, the film is also a treasure in the way that it envisions the environs that Dory encounters on her journey ranging from the natural beauty of the ocean to the equally striking man-made creation that is the Marine Life Institute. Unfortunately, some of the luster of the film’s look is inevitably lost when viewed through the murkiness of the 3-D presentation. Admittedly, this presentation isn’t a total loss—you can tell that Stanton and co-director Angus MacLane have tried to compensate for the loss of brightness brought on by the 3-D process—but if you have an opportunity to see the film in 2-D, which is how the first film was originally presented, you should try to see it that way.

As I said, “Finding Dory” is not even close to being a top-shelf Pixar film along the lines of the “Toy Story” trilogy, “Ratatouille” or “Inside Out” because it lacks the combination of technical skill, humor, heart and narrative audaciousness that made those works so utterly watchable to viewers of all ages. On the other hand, what it lacks in uniqueness, it more than makes up for in terns of sheer craft and charm and it certainly beats such Pixar misfires as the “Cars” movies and “The Good Dinosaur,” not to mention perhaps 75% of all the family films being released these days by competing studios. Unless you are an unrepentant curmudgeon, you should probably see it—and if you have kids, you may well be turned in to DCFS if you don’t—but, unlike the best Pixar efforts, repeat viewings will not be necessary in this case.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: If you do plan on seeing “Finding Dory,” make sure to get there early as the film will be preceded by “Piper,” a new animated short from Pixar about a young sandpiper struggling to overcome his fear of crashing waves in order to feed with the rest of his brethren. It may not be the most complex short that they have ever presented but is measuring solely on visual content and general adorableness, this one is pretty much off the charts. Also, without giving away anything, I implore you stay in your seats throughout all of “Finding Dory”s end credits—I promise you it will be worth the wait.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=27547&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/15/16 18:15:07
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User Comments

3/15/17 Dr.Lao One joke comedy, at least "Planes" didn't ruin a good movie 2 stars
7/23/16 orpy Charming and visually appealing. 4 stars
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  17-Jun-2016 (PG)
  DVD: 15-Nov-2016


  DVD: 15-Nov-2016

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