Finding Dory (2016) Movie Review

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Anyone who has read my blog for any period of time knows how much I love Pixar.  So, there isn’t much of a reason to give everyone more background on how big of a fan I am of Pixar.  I will say though it’s always been hard for me to pick a favorite movie from the animation studio.  Every day I may say a different title just because there is so many to choose from that I love.  But most of the time I say “Finding Nemo” is my favorite Pixar film (although I think I’m starting to say “Up” more now).  It’s perfect in nearly every way and I honestly never thought we’d see a sequel to that movie.   But alas we have “Finding Dory”, a movie sequel coming out nearly 13 years after its original movie.  This movie didn’t have to be perfect like “Nemo” just good.  Outside of “Toy Story” Pixar has given us continuations of the “Monsters Inc.” story (well a prequel in “Monsters University”) and “Cars 2”.  One I really liked and the other not so much (can you take a guess with what one I didn’t like?).   The last thing I wanted was another “Cars 2” out of “Finding Dory”

But you won’t find another “Cars 2” here.  You won’t find the next “Finding Nemo” either (which is a really unfair thing to ask).  What you will find is a perfectly enjoyable and fun sequel.  It’s not among Pixar’s best but it’s a very well made follow up and a very good entry into Pixar’s catalogue of films.  This movie has the right amount of heart and laughs to be loved by kids and adults.  The third act of the movie does falter a bit for me but all in all I had a lot of fun with this movie.

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The title “Finding Dory” doesn’t quite sum up what this movie is about.  Sure the characters do have to find Dory but it doesn’t play out the same way as “Finding Nemo” does.  That’s something this sequel gets right, this isn’t the same movie as the first film.  The structure of the movie is even completely different than “Nemo”.  The movie starts out as a prequel by showing some of the events that led up to Dory and Marlin’s first introduction to one another.  Afterwards the movie jumps forward to a year later after the events of the first movie where Dory begins to remember parts of her past that she has forgotten (because of her short term memory loss) and begins to recall memory of her parents.  Dory, Marlin and Nemo head off on a quest to find them.

So, this movie isn’t so much about finding Dory because she gets loss like Nemo did (although there is an element of that), “Finding Dory” is more about Dory finding out who she really is and where she comes from.  Their quest leads the pair to a marine institute (similar to a Sea World) as Dory finds little clues that lead her back into her former home.  I made a joke after that this movie almost plays out like “Memento” for families.   But that’s not far from the truth; there are actually quite a bit of flashbacks in the movie that show her journey to where she ended up.

The main thing I worried about going into this movie was if Dory could lead her own movie.  We saw what happened when a previous side character led their own movie before (Mater in “Cars 2” and the Minions in “Minions”).  But Dory (once again voiced amazingly by Ellen DeGeneres) proves to be an interesting character to follow.  Besides her we get plenty of colorful and fun side characters (excluding Marlin and Nemo), which was something I felt their previous film, “The Good Dinosaur”, was lacking.  The easy standout is the Octopus named Hank (voiced by “Modern Family” actor Hank O Neil).  There are a few other good new characters including two bickering whales (voiced by Katlin Olson and another “Modern Family” actor Ty Burrell).

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Nearly the entire movie takes place at the marine institute and all of it beautifully animated.  Even “Cars 2” had gorgeous animation and this no exception.   The original “Finding Nemo” still holds up today but you can really see the progression those 13 years that animation in general has taken.

Unlike “Finding Nemo” though this movie isn’t entirely perfect; it’s very fun, the entire movie I was smiling and laughing (comedic wise this movie is golden) however there are a few things that do bother me personally.  I thought sometimes the pacing wasn’t fined tuned and occasionally stumble and there is sometimes a lack of memorable set pieces.  If you remember back to “Nemo” there are so many memorable and incredible set pieces like the shark scenes, jelly fish, the dentist (amongst so many) and here the entire movie is enjoyable and fun but there isn’t really those big memorable set pieces that we’ve come to expect not just from “Nemo” but Pixar in general.

Now for me the glaring weakness is actually the big set piece of the movie in the third act.  Slight spoilers if you haven’t seen the movie.  Our main characters get stuck in a truck that is going to ship the fish to Cleveland. So Dory and her new friends hatch a scheme to stop the truck, steal it and get back into the ocean.  Look, “Nemo” had some over the top moments but for the most part there was some semblance of reality.  I thought Hank and Dory driving the truck (for myself) broke its own suppression of disbelief.  The end result I will admit is very funny and I thought the entire sequence would grow on me.  But it really hasn’t.

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But aside from those complaints I really enjoyed “Finding Dory”.  I had a lot of fun with it; it was wonderful to return to these characters and to this world.  I don’t know if I would want to see a third entry in the series though.  Returning director Andrew Stanton has crafted a film with a lot of heart. The other thing this movie does well is really play up Dory’s disability.  The first movie it’s clearly there and integral to the character but here her short term memory is put at the forefront.   The perseverance she shows throughout the film even with the disability is inspiring.  She gets frustrated and characters around her do too but she never gives up in her goals.  This makes her a wonderful role model for parents who have children with disabilities or for children with disabilities or for people with disabilities in general.  I loved seeing a character like hers get put up on such a big stage and get a chance to shine in front of us all, and shine she does.

Final Score

8/10

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