**** (out of 5)
June 17, 2016
Ellen DeGeneres as DORY
Albert Brooks as MARLIN
Ed O’Neill as HANK
Kaitlin Olson as DESTINY
Hayden Rolence as NEMO
Ty Burrell as BAILEY
Diane Keaton as JENNY
Eugene Levy as CHARLIE
Directed by: Andrew Stanton
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Several years ago, when Disney and Pixar announced a slate of sequels to their biggest hits, I was a bit skeptical. Sure, the “Toy Story” sequels were great, but “Toy Story 2” came out soon enough after the first film to make sense, and then “Toy Story 3” was as much a throwback film as it was a wholly new movie. “Cars 2” was fun (and for an opinion-defying critic like me, better than the first movie).
However, “Monsters University” – while enjoyable and fun – wasn’t nearly as good or as charming as the original. With “Finding Nemo” being a dozen years old, I was not quite convinced that “Finding Dory” would work as a brand new installment.
Even when the film started, I was worried. The story follows Dory the forgetful blue tang as she digs up flashes of memory of her parents. Even though she has a home in the safety of the reef, she decides to venture out to find her mother and father to be reunited. Marlin and Nemo take it upon themselves to find her and save her -–just as she helped out finding Nemo before.
The set-up certainly felt like we were going to get a retread of “Finding Nemo,” only searching for a different colored fish. However, after you get through the initial set-up, “Finding Dory” takes some unexpected turns.
Namely, this movie gets them out of the ocean. Marlin and Nemo track Dory down to an aquatic marine hospital where they find themselves literally hopping from exhibit to exhibit as they try to find her. Along the way, as the narrative splits the story in two, each finds a new cast of colorful and misfit side characters – like a seven-legged octopus, a beluga whale with broken echolocation, a near-sighted whale shark and a group of sea lions who have quickly become my new favorite marine Pixar characters (go team Gerald!).
With writer/director Andrew Stanton coming off the disappointing performance of the live-action/mo-cap sci-fi adventure “John Carter,” he dives back into the film that made him a star. We end up with a story that is quintessential Pixar featuring plenty of heart, plenty of charm and lot s of great character moments.
Add to the fact that you’ve got much of the cast back together with Ellen DeGeneres playing the title character, Albert Brooks playing Marlin again, and a nice little voice cameo again by Stanton himself. However, with plenty of call-backs to the original film, “Finding Dory” does not solely rely on the good will of its predecessor. Instead, it gives you brief tastes of “Finding Nemo” without over-explaining things or rehashing old bits.
I know there’s a lot of love out there for “Finding Nemo,” and it was not a movie that immediately got stuck on me. I had a long journey to become a fan, but with “Finding Dory,” I fell in love with it almost immediately. So, it certainly lives up to the original, but I can’t say it’s better because I cannot determine if its repeat watchability will be nearly as strong.
However, like most Pixar films, it’s a wonderful experience watching it try to be the best it can be.