“Finding Dory” Movie Review


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     In an era where we are consistently seeing sequels which none of us have asked for taking up space at local multiplexes, it’s refreshing to see one of those sequels has finally gotten it right.  Pixar’s new film, “Finding Dory”, is every bit as fun and creative as the first film, “Finding Nemo” (2003), and will likely be received as being on par with the very best of the Pixar offerings, including “Toy Story”, “Wall-E”, and “Monsters Inc.”.  Returning for both writing and directing duties, Andrew Stanton has again proven that the right combination of story, character, and artistic achievement can create the kind of classic film that will actually be remembered over time, rather than evaporating into the massive heap of Netflix options.  It certainly helps this installment that both Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks return to the voice cast as Dory and Marlin respectively, plus the addition of several new and imaginative characters who figure greatly into the plot give the story that extra freshness it would need to succeed considering the high standard set by the original.

     The film begins as a sort of prequel to the original’s storyline in which we see a younger Dory (Sloane Murray) learning the ways of the vast ocean from her parents, Charlie (Eugene Levy) and Jenny (Diane Keaton).  As was the case in the previous film, Dory suffers from short term memory loss and her parents display an obvious fear that she may find herself lost at some point and unable to find her way home.  And it doesn't take long for that to actually happen.  It’s as if you have a small child at Disneyland and you look away for one second, only to look back and the child is gone.  Fast forward to shortly after the events of “Finding Nemo”, where we see Dory living with Marlin and Nemo (Hayden Rolence) and still finding it difficult to remember the smallest things.  Yet, she suddenly has an epiphany and begins to remember bits and pieces of her childhood that sets her off on a mission to find her parents, with Marlin and Nemo in tow of course.

     As their journey begins, we reacquaint with several of the notable “Finding Nemo” characters, but only in small doses.  Instead, Stanton and co-screenwriter Victoria Strouse smartly create a completely new cast of characters to orbit around the central three.  The best of which is Hank (Ed O’Neil), a chameleon like Octopus who Dory meets when she first arrives at a Marine Life Preserve in California where she believes her parents may be.  Hank dreams of being taken to another sea life haven in Cleveland and thinks the numbered tag affixed to Dory’s right fin when she is scooped up near the Preserve will be his ticket to the promised land.  The two cut a deal where Hank agrees to help Dory find her parents in exchange for her tag.  All the while, Marlin and Nemo are on the outside looking in and trying to find a way to catch up with their beloved friend.

     As was the case with the original, there is an ongoing human element playing in the background which has the fishy cast in constant peril as they are nearly caught at practically every turn.  One of the best has Dory and Hank finding themselves at the mercy of curious children when they accidentally swim into a touching pool.  The army of digital artists who bring these characters to life have outdone themselves with the murky lifelike environments within the ocean, as well as the crystal clear high definition look of thousands of colorful fish gliding around massive aquariums.  And while Thomas Newman’s score doesn’t stand out here the way it did in “Finding Nemo” and “Wall-E”, his approach works seamlessly with the film’s many action set pieces where our sea born characters find themselves in some of the most unthinkable situations.

     At the end of the day, the most important part of the film is the love you will have for Dory, Marlin, and Nemo and this is only enhanced by the decision to make a sequel some 13 years after “Finding Nemo” became a classic.  The screenplay by Stanton and Strouse is Oscar worthy, as is the razor sharp editing by Axel Geddes.  Dory’s backstory is a triumph, working on so many different levels, as it successfully fuels the emotional pitch of the entire story.  You will not only root for the characters on screen, but you’ll also feel as though you’ve been rewarded each time they succeed.  Bottom line is this is one of the very few sequels that actually lives up to both the hype and the original.  A feat that is uncommon in today’s world of cash grab cinema. GRADE: A