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Finding Dory - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Finding Dory
Directing: B+
Acting: B+
Writing: B+
Cinematography: A-
Editing: B+
Animation: A-

Of all the Pixar Animation Studios feature film sequels, only Toy Story seems to have managed increasing in quality with each installment. (How they fare with a fourth installment remains to be seen.) Otherwise, their sequels tend to be much flatter, less witty and less clever versions of original concepts. Finding Dory, which opens this weekend thirteen years after Finding Nemo awed critics and audiences alike, occupies a more middle ground. The same applies, at the most fundamental level: none of what was new about the first film is on offer here. It also ups the ante in preposterousness, to a massive degree, with its situational sequences. But you know, so what? It's still a cartoon, and it's still, as a matter of fact, thoroughly entertaining.

The animation is about as excellent as you could expect from Pixar. Its only drawback is that the stunning oceanscapes were already done before, which makes it harder to impress viewers. So, the directors and writers crank up the screwball comedy. Our favorite characters, and a couple new favorites, take some pretty crazy journeys. Luckily, it still works: I laughed a lot.

And Finding Dory does have much of the same heart, grounded in the importance of family, genetic or chosen, of its predecessor. It shifts the focus, of course, from Nemo to Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), starting right when she is a tiny little-girl fish, getting lessons from her parents about how to deal with her short term memory loss, until she runs into little Nemo's dad, Marlin (Albert Brooks). This is only a brief moment where the stories of these two movies intersect; it quickly jumps to a year later, when a lesson at school triggers a memory in Dory that leads her to head back across the ocean in search of her parents.

This movie wastes no time getting to the action, and Marlin and Nemo follow Dory to the marine wildlife rehabilitation center in California where she realizes she left her parents. (It turns out when Dory was born, she and her family were actually in a tank.) A whole lot of Finding Dory is set in this facility rather than in the open ocean, allowing for a surprising amount of story taking place on dry land. Dory even meets a "septopus" (a word she coins when she realizes the octopus is missing a tentacle) named Hank, voiced perfectly by Ed O'Neill. He strikes a deal with her that involves his help, and he sneaks around from room to room in the building, carrying Dory along in all manner of containers filled with water: a coffee pot; a baby sippy cup; a toy sand bucket.

This is a movie whose main characters are fish and an octopus, and there is actually scene where they take over a semi truck on the freeway. A friendly beluga whale named Bailey (Ty Burrell) actually tracks their whereabouts with echolocation from the ocean. There comes a point in this movie where the scenarios are so idiotic they circle back around to being easily embraced. It is a key difference from Finding Nemo, however, with its stunningly realistic renditions of the ocean floor. Now we're watching fish hijack a land vehicle.

I have to give it to the writers of this movie, though: they take the story surprising places, and they keep us wanting to go along with it. And, to be sure, kids will absolutely love Finding Dory -- probably more than they loved Cars 2 (meh) or Monsters University (double meh). Adults will be delighted by it too, just not with the same appreciation for sophisticated levels of meaning in masterpieces like WALL-E or Inside Out.

As a final note, I'll add that the Pixar short film that shows before the movie, called Piper, about a baby bird discovering how to dig for food on the beach, is itself a mini-masterpiece. That wonderful film, Pixar's best short in ages, is alone worth the price of admission.

Ellen DeGeneres and Ed O'Neill up the antics in FINDING DORY.

Overall: B+
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