Jul 2, 2018

[Movies] Finding Dory (2016) Review

It was hard to believe that the folks at Pixar had decided to make a sequel for Finding Nemo as that movie felt like the story was pretty much closed by the end of the film. After all the main quest of the movie - to find the young Nemo - had been fulfilled. So all's well that ends well, right?

But 13 years later Pixar released Finding Dory, which initially felt like a blatant cash grab to me and sort of not in tune with Pixar's general dedication to telling stories well and creating quality animated features. So a sequel to a pretty much closed story felt odd to say the least.

But hey, you just got trust in Pixar, I suppose, and see what sort of a story they'd try to tell. And true enough, they did find something to focus on that made sense - Dory's apparently complex back story. Sure she was funny as a supporting character in the first movie, but given the unique problem of having short-term memory loss can significantly complicate one's life. And that's where the story grew from, it seems.

Synopsis: Finding Dory is the 2016 sequel to Finding Nemo, both written and directed by Andrew Stanton. The movie grossed over $1 billion worldwide and was the third-highest grossing film of 2016.

The movie begins with a flashback showing young Dory (Sloane Murray / Lucia Geddes) with her parents (voiced by Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy). Even at a young age she was already struggling to deal with her short term memory loss and her parents were doing their best to equip her with the tools to survive in the world and at the very least always find her way home. But one thing leads to another and Dory gets separated from her parents and ends up swimming aimlessly as she grows older until we reach the beginning of Finding Nemo when she first encounters Marlin (Albert Brooks). And in that time she had managed to forget her way home and even forget her parents.

Fast-forward to the present, which is one year after the events of the first movie, and Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) has been living together with Marlin and his son Nemo (Hayden Rolence). But something manages to jog her memory and she remembers her parents and the fact that they used to live at the Jewel of Morro Bay in California. This prompts her to want to cross the ocean to find them and she knows that she'll need Marlin and Nemo's help to make the journey without getting distracted or lost because of her memory issues.

What I Liked: Dory's short-term memory loss was a quirky character trait from the first movie and largely felt like a gag. This movie elevated that to a serious condition and perhaps gave people young and old who struggle with similar neurological challenges a movie to relate to. But more than a story of Dory needing Marlin's help constantly, we show her finding strength within her to solve problems and forge a path forward until she learns the fate of her parents.

The supporting cast in this movie was pretty amazing and if anything it feels like Marlin and Nemo were rather pushed aside. Hank (Ed O'Neill) is a visually amazing octopus that they end up treating like some master of disguise. Destiny (Kaitlin Olson) is a near-sighted whale shark with a good heart but significant challenges given her sight. And there's also Bailey (Ty Burrell), a beluga whale that turns out to play a much larger role in the latter part of the movie.

What Could Have Been Better: The greater implications of Dory's life really sort of hit you in the gut like the sad story of Carl Fredricksen as depicted in the beginning of the Pixar movie Up. Seriously, she managed to completely forget her family and her home because of her condition - how is that not traumatic? There were notes of this already in the first movie but this one really brings it into focus and that can be a little difficult to really consider.

I also feel a tad bad for Marlin and Nemo in this movie. They were clearly there for continuity purposes and not really to have a strong part to play in this adventure. Yes, they're now Dory's family but the efforts to allow Dory to grow and face her own challenges we had them immediately separated and wandering off on their own before finding Dory in the third act. In the meantime Dory got a lot done without them so that sort of evens things out?

TL;DR: Finding Dory is a good example of a sequel that we didn't quite clamor for but the end result was quite touching and emotionally impactful. There are good laughs but a lot of moments that just make you think a bit and remember to be grateful for the friends and family that complete your life. Thus the movie gets a good 4.5 helpful, informative announcements by Sigourney Weaver out of a possible 5.

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