Saturday, June 18, 2016

Finding Dory

3/4

Starring (voices): Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O'Neill, Kaitlin Olsen, Ty Burrell, Hayden Rolence

Rated PG for Mild Thematic Elements

I think what makes Dory so appealing is that despite her short-term memory loss, she's almost constantly in good spirits.  I guess it's hard to remain depressed if you keep forgetting why you're depressed.  And also why you should be careful and decide whether your idea is good or balls out insane.

A year after the events in "Finding Nemo," Dory (DeGeneres) is living comfortably in the reef with Marlin (Brooks) and Nemo (Rolence).  Strange things are happening to Dory, though: she's remembering things from her childhood.  Specifically, that she had parents.  So with the resigned Marlin and eager Nemo in tow, she sets off to find them.  After getting a ride from Crush (Andrew Stanton), the trio ends up at an aquarium.  Trouble happens when Dory gets scooped up from the water and is tagged to be shipped off to Cleveland.

Unlike "Finding Nemo," which was essentially a road movie (or is that a swimming movie), "Finding Dory" spends the majority of the running time at the aquarium.  That doesn't mean that it stays in one place; quite the contrary, since we see just about every part of the aquarium.  And no sequel to "Finding Nemo" could call itself as such without a cast of zany supporting characters.  This one has a seeing-impaired whale shark named Destiny (Olsen), a brain-damaged beluga whale named Bailey (Burrell, sounding very much like Bill Hader, who has a cameo here), and a grouchy octopus named Hank (O'Neill) whose only desire is to be shipped to Cleveland.

The voice acting is great.  Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres reprise their roles with ease.  Hayden Rolence is an excellent replacement for Alexander Gould (who couldn't play the role again since he grew up, although he does have a cameo), although his character is essentially superfluous.  Ed O'Neill plays a cranky geezer like no one else.  Kaitlin Olsen and Ty Burrell provide some great comic relief.  Sigourney Weaver plays the aquarium's announcer (echoes of another Pixar movie, "Wall-E").

What it's missing is a heart.  "Finding Nemo," in addition to being cute and hilarious, was an intelligent look at how fathers and sons related to each other.  "Finding Nemo" has a message about the importance of family and perseverance, but these aren't exactly new to the movies, and Stanton doesn't find a way to make them seem fresh.  Or particularly heart-rending.

The film looks fantastic, and that's kind of the problem.  There are times when Stanton seems to want to show everything and (possibly fears the notoriously short attention spans of kids).  It hampers our ability to get involved in the story.  And the 3-D is on the low side of good.  Not noticeable except  for an instance in the beginning when the image seems dark and blurry.

Even if I don't recommend the film (which I do), people would flock to see it.  And how could I blame them?  It's fun, exciting and occasionally hilarious.  What more can you ask for?

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