Tweetable Takeaway: #FindingDory doesn’t surpass Nemo, but is still an emotional journey worth taking. Tweet
If one studio can be trusted to take a side character who can’t remember much of anything from one movie and give her a movie of her own in which memory is the main motivator, Pixar is that studio. Known for its unbelievable track record, the studio is back with a sequel to one of its earliest and most beloved films, Finding Nemo. Though this sequel doesn’t surpass the original, there’s still an ocean’s worth of magic to be found in its imaginative characters, gorgeous animation, and emotionally driven story. Ultimately FINDING DORY is a movie with flashes of occasional brilliance swimming in a plot that sometimes feels forced where it should be flowing naturally.
The movie opens on a young Dory, voiced by quite possibly the most heart wrenching voice ever recorded, Sloane Murray. Young Dory lives with her patient parents, Jenny (Diane Keaton) and Charlie (Eugene Levy). They’re immensely encouraging and do their best to raise her, but when Dory becomes separated from her family, due to her handicapped memory, she forgets about them. As an adult, Dory (again voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) goes on the adventure from Finding Nemo, after which we find her living with Marlin (reprised by Albert Brooks) and Nemo (now voiced by Hayden Rolence, since the original child actor is now 22 years old). When she gets a flash of memory about her parents, and it’s off across the ocean on another adventure. This time, the trio travel to California to the Marine Life Institute in Morro Bay in order to find Dory’s family.
We cross paths with a few familiar faces, like school teacher Mr. Ray (Bob Peterson) and Crush the sea turtle (again voiced by the film’s writer and director Andrew Stanton). And of course there’s a slew of new, kooky sea creatures in the mix. Among them are a pair of territorial sea lions (voiced by Idris Elba and Dominic West), a beluga whale with echolocation issues, Bailey (Ty Burrell), a near-sighted whale shark, Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), and Hank, a gruff octopus with only seven tentacles (Ed O’Neill). Of the slew of new faces, only Hank feels truly fleshed out. Destiny’s near-sightedness is one example, a trait that doesn’t end up having any pay-off, other than to contribute to the overall theme that ‘nobody’s perfect’.
And of course, Dory’s memory problems remain the center and the film’s anchor. Dory’s plight can be heartbreaking at times, as the audience watches as she fights so hard to remember her current actions, and slowly, it slips away. There’s never any doubt that finding her parents is a goal Dory would do anything to accomplish, and it’s easy to get invested in her character’s journey. Most of the plot hinges on the hints of Dory’s past that surface, and it’s not always the most satisfying way to get from Point A to Point B. There will be a memory that bubbles up, and that memory will lead Dory to another exhibit of the Marine Life Institute. After she gets there, she meets a funny new character, and a new memory reveals that she actually must travel somewhere else. It’s a zigzag approach to accomplishing her goals, one that starts to feel as though the movie is taking pit stops instead of moving forward.
Despite its plotting problems, Finding Dory truly shines on an emotional level. Those moments in which Dory overcomes obstacles or accomplishes certain goals will guarantee a splash or two down your cheek. The message the movie imparts is important for viewers young and old: that we all have something to contribute even if something holds us back, whether that be memory loss or anything else. Finding Dory isn’t the best of Pixar’s efforts, nor does it surpass Finding Nemo, but it’s a strong movie nonetheless offering plenty to please viewers of all ages.
I give Finding Dory 4 blue tangs out of 5
Score: 4 out of 5
Wil Loper | Contributor