NO QUITE LOST, NOT QUITE FOUND

FINDING DORY IS A FUN THROWBACK TO AN EARLY CLASSIC, BUT LIKE OTHER SEQUELS, PIXAR’S LATEST EFFORT DOESN’T EQUAL THE ORIGINAL

Director: Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane

Starring: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Kaitlin Olson, Ed O’Neil, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Idris Elba, Dominic West, Bill Hader, Kate McKinnon, Ty Burrell and Sigourney Weaver

Studio: Disney/Pixar

Rated: G

Running Time: 1 Hr, 37 Mins

Pixar’s recent habit of mining some of their older material for new releases has met with varying degrees of success. While the two Toy Story sequels were well received by both audiences and critics alike, sequels to Cars and Monsters Inc. met with lukewarm receptions. They were well liked by audiences (success that was reflected by their strong box office) but it was also widely accepted that they fell short of the original movies that inspired them. While there is a lot to like about Pixar’s newest release, Finding Dory (a sequel to the 2003 blockbuster Finding Nemo), it falls into the same trap. It’s good but it also fails to grow beyond the shadow of its predecessor.

Finding Dory opens with a quick look at a painfully adorable baby Dory and her family. Dory’s parents (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy) are dealing with her memory problems with patience and care and it’s obvious how much love and happiness the fish family shared before they were separated, most likely as a result of Dory’s inability to remember anything. Fast-forward a year after the events of Finding Nemo and Dory (Ellen Degeneres), Marvin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence) have formed an informal little family on their corner of the reef. But Dory is soon haunted by memories of her parents and as the fragments of her childhood memories persist, Dory grows increasingly obsessed with finding her family. She soon sets off on a quest across the ocean to find her missing parents, a supportive Nemo and reluctant Marvin in tow.

Armed only with her companions and vague memories, Dory faces not only new dangers and an uncertain future, but self-doubt and insecurity as well. Dory soon realizes that if she wants to be reunited with her family, she has to rise above the challenges that face her and the limitations she’s always accepted. She stumbles across no shortage of forgotten friends along the way as well as plenty of new ones, and all of them turn out to be instrumental in helping Dory reach her goal.

It’s been thirteen years since we last saw Dory, Nemo and Pixar’s vibrant underwater world and you can tell that the animated juggernaut hasn’t rested on its laurels. In 2003, the quality of animation was definitely top shelf but looks a touch antiquated now. With a new coat of paint and some new tricks, Pixar continues to remind movie goers why they’re at the top of animation’s quality food chain. Dory and company continue to look fantastic today and marine landscapes really allow Pixar to stretch its creative legs. And as usual, the voice casting is a perfect compliment to the beautiful animation. Idris Elba and Dominic Cooper as a pair of lazy yet territorial sea lions are Finding Dory’s comedic stars and are this movie’s version of Nemo’s greedy sea gulls. Ed O’Neil voicing Hank, a cranky octopus who is afraid of the ocean is equally inspired and Katilin Olson as the near sighted whale shark Destiny and Ty Burrell as the hypochondriac beluga Bailey round out a great new supporting cast.

There are a lot of laughs in Finding Dory, it looks great and your kids will instantly fall in love with baby Dory during the flashbacks (expect lots of Finding Dory themed merchandise on Christmas lists in a few months). And it is well worth the price of admission (especially if you catch it in 3D), but like many of the sequels Pixar has done, it falls noticeably short of the original. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, except it seems to happen with all of Pixar’s sequels with the possible exception of the Toy Story movies (and let’s be honest, the nostalgia hurt from Toy Story 3 is what makes it stand out in our emotional memory). This should probably inspire some concern considering that sequels make up nearly everything Pixar has on their scheduled slate over the next few years (Cars 3 next year, Toy Story 4 in 2018 and The Incredibles 2 in 2019, with one lone original property, Coco, scheduled for release in November of 2017). Even the pre film short Piper, while cute in its own way, feels a little less then many of the other shorts Pixar is renown for.

Now might be the best time for parent company Disney to ask what’s preventing their coveted animation brand from returning to the drawing board to pursue original ideas, especially while Pixar is raking in mad cash. As it stands now, many (myself included) would argue that Disney’s own in house animation studio, which gave us the billion dollar mega hit Zootopia a few months ago, may have passed the house that Toy Story built in terms of fresh, bold ideas (Zootopia tackled ideas of discrimination while Disney’s November scheduled Moana will be the first animated feature to concentrate on Hawaiian culture).

Regardless, Finding Dory is an entertaining spectacle for movie fans of all ages. If you can, catch in 3D to really appreciate the quality of the animation, which really lends itself to underwater environments. And you definitely want to stick around for the post credit scene. Even though it doesn’t live up to the original, its full of laughs and the story was reasonably well done. It’s the perfect summer movie for families.

Shayne Kempton

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