What It's About: What would Dory do? That's the question explored in "Finding Dory," the delightful follow-up in which the lovable blue tang fish from 2003's "Finding Nemo" is given her own deeper, broader story. In the original, Dory had short-term memory loss.
In a remarkable voice performance, Ellen DeGeneres, as the resourceful Dory, comes to terms with her individuality, remembers her past, and learns what family means. It's a tall order, but if the sequel was only short-term memory loss schtick, that would get old really quick.
Oh sure, there are funny moments about her inability to remember, but Dory, surrounded by her loyal clownfish pals Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence), discovers how special she really is.
Layered with heart and humor, Dory's emotional journey emphasizes acceptance of people's differences and disabilities. That message of self-worth is as important as what Pixar says about nurturing parents who prepare you to go out into the world, and the good friends you make along the way.
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As is customary with Pixar films, adults see a story that resonates with parents while children are entertained with brilliant animation, colorful characters, an amusing story — and a lesson about growing up.
Like "Up," "Inside Out" and "Toy Story 3," this latest Pixar might bring out a few tears besides hearty laughs. To hear children giggle at the slapstick-y antics is priceless.
Performances: The other voice work is exceptional, too. Ed O'Neill ("Modern Family") is a standout as a crotchety octopus named Hank, who shifts shapes and changes colors according to his circumstances. In the Pixar pantheon, this character is one of their finest achievements.
His "Modern Family" costar Ty Burrell is funny as the Beluga whale Bailey, who bickers with a whale shark named Destiny (Kaitlin Olson).
Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy are marvelous as Dory's loving parents Jenny and Charlie. As young Dory, Sloane Murray is simply adorable.
Sigourney Weaver is a good sport with a running gag, and constant Pixar presence John Ratzenberger is on board, only as a different character.
What Works: The technological advances in 13 years is evident in this swift, slick movie, but Pixar has never just been about what computers can do with animation these days. They truly concentrate on the story, and co-director Andrew Stanton and his fellow screenwriters Victoria Rouse and Bob Peterson have not only given us a new view of marine life but a story on the human condition that connects.
Pixar's attention to detail is evident in the sea world presented — and you really believe you're watching underwater life.
What Doesn't Work: The film is filled with many characters, and perhaps there are too many to keep track of, no matter how cute.
Dory and her determination to get back home to her parents is really the only story we need. Depicting how there is more than one way to do things, and to be free to be who you are is a timeless take-away for the ages.
- Director: Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane
- Starring: (Voices) Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Idris Elba, Diane Keaton, Bill Hader, John Ratzenberger, Ty Burrell and Kaitlin Olson
- Rated: PG for mild thematic elements