Friday, November 25, 2016

Finding Dory: A Review


It was Oscar Wilde in The Importance of Being Ernest who wrote, "to lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose both looks like carelessness".  Perhaps this was the inspiration for Finding Dory, the sequel to the highly successful Finding Nemo.

I'd like to think that, but I suspect that it is a combination of attempting to cash in on Finding Nemo's massive financial haul plus the general laziness of putting out a sequel in this Year of the Sequel that was the real motivation.  Regardless of the reason for Finding Dory, in a year as abysmal as 2016 I find that this generally sweet little film is entertaining enough, with just enough to hold one's interest along with some simply beautiful visuals to make it a good sequel.

Even if it was completely unnecessary.

Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), our very forgetful regal blue tan fin fish, has been living with her new friends, the clownfish Marlin (Albert Brooks), a constant worrier, and his son, Nemo (Hayden Rolence).  She is happy, but still senses something is missing.

Despite herself, she realizes what it is: her parents, whom she lost many years ago when she wandered off and forgot where they were.  With that, she decides that she must find them, using the only clue she can muster memory for (the Jewel of Morro Bay).

With that, she's off to find her parents, with a very reluctant and aggravated Marlin and more optimistic Nemo in toe. Eventually, they all end up at the Marine Life Institute, an institute that rehabilitates aquatic life and returns it to the wilds off the California coast (though separated after a falling-out between the cantankerous Marlin and the naïve Dory).  Dory finds herself almost headed for a rehabilitation aquarium in Cleveland, but is spared this by Hank (Ed O'Neal), an octopus with seven tentacles who wants desperately to go to the safety and reclusiveness of Cleveland rather than stay at the MLI.  He agrees to help Dory find her parents in the MLI in exchange for her tag that has her Cleveland-bound.

Marlin and Nemo, for their part, are desperate to get to Dory, so they get help from two sea lions and a very whacked-out loon to get them there.  Dory, for her part, finds an old friend, Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), a whale (proving that Dory does indeed speak whale), along with another creature in rehab, the beluga whale Bailey (Ty Burrell). Dory eventually finds that her own parents went in search of her after she disappeared and they have never been seen again.  She's sad, but somehow, despite herself, finds them alive and well.

Now it's up to Dory, along with a highly reluctant Hank, to save Marlin, Nemo, and others from the confines of Cleveland.

In many ways, Finding Dory feels like one of those direct-to-DVD films the Disney company cranks out to cash in on a character (all those sequels to Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, Beauty & The Beast, etc.). They carry the name, can be diversions, but don't come close to being in the same league as the original.  Finding Dory follows in that tradition, giving us a story of a character one likes but one isn't desperate to know more about.

I think it has to do with the fact that in Finding Nemo, we got the backstory of how Marlin's fears were brought to life even as Nemo gamely kept going.  In Finding Dory, we really weren't looking for her.  We were looking for her parents, but since we get hopping from the present to the past (and could never really trust that ever-forgetful Dory would have accurate memories) it didn't have the same emotional impact.

Finding Dory has some wonderful visual moments, such as when Dory and Hank go to the massive tank where her family originated from.  It's a visually arresting and splendid sequence that really is breathtaking.

That being said, I cannot fault Finding Dory for being a slight trifle.  Not on the same level as its predecessor, Finding Dory has some visual delights, and some moments of tenderness, suspense and comedy. 

I can only hope we don't get Finding Marlin (though I offer no objection to Finding Crush). 


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