“Finding Dory” Review (****)

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Dory (voiced by the hilarious Ellen DeGeneres) finds herself
among new friends in “Finding Dory.”

“Finding Nemo” is one of the most beloved films in Disney’s very full and rich history (see their dozens and dozens of shiny, gold Oscars), so to say that expectations for “Finding Dory” were high might be the understatement of the year. It’s tough to outdo—or worse, redo—something that’s been so critically lauded and culturally beloved. “Finding Dory,” however, is up to the challenge, and directors Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane give it their very best shot.

Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) is an affable blue tang who suffers from short-term memory loss. In “Finding Nemo” she played side-kick to Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks), a not-so-funny clownfish, desperate to find his son Nemo. In “Finding Dory,” however, the roles have been reversed slightly. Nemo and Marlin are on the hunt for Dory after she weasels her way into the Marine Life Institute (also known as ‘the Jewel of Morrow Bay California’). The two films are seamlessly threaded. “Finding Dory” picks up almost a year after it’s predecessor ended, and Dory, Marlin and Nemo are one big, happy family. Soon, Dory has flashes—small memories of her own family, her mom and dad. These flashbacks offer some of the films most sappy, sentimental moments; particularly the opening sequence which proves to be at least comparably (though arguably less) emotionally evocative than the opening of “Up.”

 
In one of the film’s running, and arguably best, jokes, Sigourney Weaver, as the voice of the Institute, constantly interrupts the story and the dialogue, her voice booming through the Institute’s rock-disguised speakers: ‘Hello, I’m Sigourney Weaver…’ followed by some sort of institute slogan, peddling mottos like ‘rescue, rehabilitation, and release.’ Weaver, in real life, can be heard narrating “Planet Earth” episodes and planetarium shows at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco. Genius.

The premise of “Finding Dory” nearly mirrors that of “Finding Nemo,” a convention I initially found to be worrisome (see the “The Hangover” films). Fortunately, its plot remains fresh as we follow our friend—the queen of misadventures—through the various parts of this water park. It’s a film full of an exceptional array of ancillary characters: a childhood whale-friend with poor vision called Destiny (voiced by Kaitlin Olson), an grump of an octopus (but he lost one arm so Dory deems him a ‘septapus’) voiced by Ed O’Neil, a beluga whale whose lost it’s ability to echolocate (voiced by Ty Burrell), a voiceless bug-eyed bird, and adorable, cuddly families of otters. Of course, we still have Marlin and Nemo who help direct the plot and keep us focused despite Dory’s constant misadventures.

Marlin and Nemo go on many adventures in their new flick, “Finding Dory.”

Yes, we do, in fact, hear Dory speak in her native tongue of Whale. The best part of this movie, aside form the constant and steady stream of truly funny jokes, is the message. Sure it’s about friendship and love and following your heart, but more than that it’s about embracing what makes you different, embracing that quality that separates your from everyone else, and sometimes may even isolate you, because without that quality, you wouldn’t be you… and what could be better than you?

The film is so very heartwarming. I left the theatre feeling fuzzy and glad and warm. I think “Finding Dory” has the all the heart and the humor, excess probably, that basically copyright all Disney films. It’s a film that had me, an adult, laughing and crying. Similarly, there was a group of young children a few seats down the aisle that were equally expressive and, arguably, more vocal. It’s a perfect summer movie for watchers of all ages. Go see it, and if you can, see it in 3D, the graphics are exceptional.

4 out of 5 stars.

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