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Finding Dory
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by alejandroariera

"Happy we’ll be…beyond the aquatic park"
4 stars

Outside “Toy Story 2” and “Toy Story 3” —which I really don’t consider sequels at all as they are part of a much larger story about growing up and away from childhood— the Pixar studios have pretty much struck out when it comes to sequels. “Cars 2” was pretty much an excuse for Disney and Pixar to launch a new line of merchandise and tie-in items; and “Monsters University” may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but its story of how Mike and Sulley met in college turned out to be an obnoxious, unfunny and unnecessary prequel to the far superior and heartfelt “Monsters, Inc.” So, as a critic and as a fan of Pixar, I proceeded with caution as I put on my 3D glasses and let the first images of “Finding Dory,” the sequel to “Finding Nemo,” wash over me. And even though “Finding Dory” follows the same narrative template of its predecessor and lacks its sense of wonder, its treatment of a subject matter rarely explored in commercial animation is handled sensibly and with a lot of heart: how to raise a child with a learning disability and how, as an adult, that child learns to live with that disability.

The first scenes of “Finding Dory” reintroduce the popular character as a cute blue tang guppy suffering from short-term memory loss, overly-protected by mom Jenny (Diane Keaton) and dad Charlie (Eugene Levy). They teach her what to say and do when and if she gets lost and how to lay a path of shells that will lead her back home. Dory’s scared that her disability will eventually lead her to forget her parents. And, thus, a condition that was treated humorously in the first film is now handled with tact and pathos. Dory inevitably gets lost. How she gets lost and where home is are deliberately left unexplained in the film’s first act. Our focus here is in Dory’s fears and desperation as she asks every fish within sight for help, trying at the same time to remember what she needs help for. And so the years pass and Dory grows old, seeking the help of every single imaginable species of fish she runs into to be treated with indifference by them until she meets clownfish Marlin (Albert Brooks) who has embarked on a search of his own. Ellen DeGeneres (as the voice of the older Dory) and writer-director Andrew Staunton and co-writer Victoria Strouse find the right balance between the harrowing and the lightly humorous in these scenes.

One year later, Marlin, his disabled son Nemo (now voiced by Hayden Rolence), and Dory live as a happy family. Then, one night she remembers her parents and recruits the always-reluctant father and his more enthusiastic son in her search for them. The search leads them this time to California’s coasts and the Marine Life Institute (featuring one of the film’s best gags: a series of public announcements voiced by Sigourney Weaver piped through the Institute’s loudspeakers. Believe me, they are pretty damn funny). The trio is inevitably split when Dory is “rescued” by Institute staffers and taken to its quarantine facility. There she meets Hank (Ed O’Neill), a grumpy chameleonic octopus who lost one arm (Dory calls him a “septopus”) who agrees to help her find her parents in exchange for her tag. Hank hates the sea and he’d much rather spend his time in the Institute’s Cleveland facilities than in the ocean. As Hank and Dory make their way through the facility, our clownfish duo seek the help of two laidback sea lions (hilariously voiced by Idris Elba —having delivered excellent voice work already this year in “Zootopia” and “The Jungle Book”— and Dominic West) who manage to get them inside the Institute.

High jinks, pratfalls and several chase sequences inevitably ensue, some of which wouldn’t have felt out of place in a Keystone Kops or Buster Keaton comedy. But Staunton and co-director Angus MacLane know when to pause the action to give equal room and time to some of the film’s core emotional concerns as Dory, slowly but surely, begins to reconstruct in her mind the events that led to her separation from her parents. There is one scene, towards the film’s end, that is completely devastating: Dory finds herself back where she started, alone, in the middle of an oceanic nowhere, desperate, trying to remember how she got there, and where her friends are. It may stop the film dead on its tracks after all the fun shenanigans that preceded it, but the scene brings its themes full circle as, all alone, Dory is forced to put all her learned skills to work. It forces us to look at Dory in a different light, to acknowledge that her happy-go-luckiness and positive attitude were a coping mechanism, one that allowed her to survive in these sometimes hostile waters.

By “beaching” its characters in an aquatic park for most of the film, “Finding Dory” may lack its predecessor’s sense of wonder at discovering new worlds and wonders. It turns Marlin and Nemo into a bickering Laurel and Hardy act. And it may not be as heartbreaking as the “Toy Story” saga. But it is a brave film, one that, in the great Pixar tradition, tackles matters of the heart and mind intelligently, without talking down to its audience. It provides a satisfactory conclusion to a story begun 13 years ago. One thing: do not leave before the credits end. There are two additional scenes involving our pair of sea lions and certain characters from the first film that, am told, must not be missed. Do not make the same mistake I did by leaving early.

A final note: “Finding Dory” is preceded by “Piper,” a short that not only serves as a thematic companion to the film but also makes you wonder what “Dory” might have been like had it not followed its predecessor’s narrative template so closely. Directed by Alan Barillaro, “Piper” is the story of a baby sandpiper bird’s first steps from his mother’s nest as she encourages Piper to seek his own food. At first afraid of the crashing waves, little Piper learns from an equally small friend how to use this fear to his advantage. “Piper” is adorable, groundbreaking and unique, very different from Pixar’s house style in its character design, in its photorealism and in its use of soft focus. It represents a new stage in Pixar’s artistic development. “Piper” is one of my favorite films of the year.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=27547&reviewer=434
originally posted: 06/16/16 11:00:00
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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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