By Jon Gallagher
Finding Dory (Pixar/Disney, 2016) – Directors: Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane. Writers: Andrew Stanton, Victoria Strouse (s/p). Andrew Stanton (original story). Angus MacLane (additional story material). Bob Peterson (additional s/p material). Stars: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Hayden Rolence, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Sloane Murray, Idris Elba, Dominic West, Bob Peterson, Kate McKinnon, Bill Hader, & Sigourney Weaver. Animated, Color, Rated PG, 103 minutes.
It’s been 13 years since we went in search of a little clown fish named Nemo. Pixar has us now searching for Dory in a thoroughly entertaining sequel to the original.
In the original, Nemo, the only surviving son of Marlin, is fish-napped by a collector. Marlin devotes the rest of the movie to finding his son and rescuing him from an aquarium. Along the way, he’s aided by a blue tang fish with a severe short-term memory loss named Dory.
This movie picks up a year after Nemo left off. Nemo and his dad look after Dory who has a hard time remembering just about everything. Despite her shortcomings in the memory department, she has the uncanny ability to use logic and it’s that logic that triggers distant memories of her parents (which we see in flashbacks). When she suddenly realizes she has a set of parents, she sets out on a quest to find them. Marlin and Nemo then set out an a quest to find her before she gets hurt.
Along the way, we get to experience two different adventures and a whole new cast of supporting characters who are a lot of fun.
The movie itself moves along at a nice pace, allowing us to experience the rollercoaster ride that goes along with an adventure film, but it’s a kiddie rollercoaster at best. There’s never any real danger and there’s no villain who’s out to harm our heroes. The whole conflict in the movie comes from whether or not Dory is going to find her parents and whether or not Marlin and Nemo are going to find Dory.
When I taught English many moons ago, I taught my students that stories must have conflict. Conflict can come in one of three different forms: Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, and Man vs. Himself. While this movie has some conflict as to whether everyone is going to end up finding each other or not, there’s no real definitive adversary which is why the ups and downs of the plot are only “kiddie rollercoaster” types of highs and lows.
Having said that, that does NOT mean the movie wasn’t entertaining; it certainly was. A scene where Marlin and Nemo are trying to stop a truck loaded with a fish exhibit on its way to Cleveland is roll-on-the-floor funny (Best line in the movie, if you can hear it over the laughter is, “We are SO fired!”).
There are a lot of lessons being taught during the movie too. There’s the one about not ever giving up, there’s the one about always looking for another way to accomplish something, there’s the one about how important family is…and there’s the big one about how we treat someone who’s a little different or has special needs.
I usually don’t make a big deal out of how someone voices a character because voice is only one tiny aspect of acting, but Ellen DeGeneres who does the voice of the title character Dory needs to be lauded for her exemplary work here. Reading a script is one thing, but it’s obvious that Ellen is improvising a good deal to convey the whole concept of absent-mindedness, and she could not have been better.
It takes Pixar several years from concept to completion on a project, but I doubt if we’re going to be waiting another 13 years for a third installment in this franchise. There were enough characters introduced (Hank the Septapus) to give them plenty of plotlines for a third movie (Hank lost one of his tentacles in an accident that’s really not explained, so the third movie could possibly be spent looking for it).
I asked my 11-year-old daughter (who was my date for the night) what she thought of the movie and her eyes sparkled as she answered, “Awesome!”
As for me, I’ll give it an A-. It was a great movie, kept the kiddies in the audience engaged, kept me chuckling, and provided some thought-provoking conversation afterward with my daughter. I would like to have seen a little more conflict and maybe a villain to foil in the end. But all in all, it was good enough to add to the collection once it hits the DVD market soon.