Starring:Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Hayden Rolence, Ty Burrell, Kaitlin Olson, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy and Sloane Murray
Directed by: Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane
Run Time: 97 minutes
4 out of 5 Frames
By: Cassandra Nicholson
A little more than 13 years ago, Disney and Pixar made an enormous splash with their smash hit “Finding Nemo,” about Marlin (Albert Brooks), a father desperate to be reunited with his lost son, and the adventures he faced alongside a kind, forgetful and brave fish named Dory (Ellen Degeneres).
The 2003 film, written by Andrew Stanton and directed by Stanton and Lee Unkrich, explored the value of family and friendship – and that theme continues in Dory’s chapter of the story, as we revisit the unlikely trio one year after Nemo’s return home.
This time, writer and director teams up with fellow director Angus MacLane, who has served as various animator positions for some of Disney’s greatest hits, including “Toy Story 2,” “Monster’s Inc,” “Cars,” “Up” and the aforementioned original Nemo flick.
“Finding Dory” begins with her unsettling dreams, along with a couple odd clues that trigger memories (shown via flashback) of her life as a baby fish with her patient, loving parents. The story is driven by these occasional flashbacks, featuring arguably the cutest animated voice ever in newcomer Sloane Murray. Each clue generates a necessary memory that leads Dory and her companions to her family’s likely whereabouts.
And so, they begin their next adventure with a speedy trip, courtesy of some familiar surfing turtles, all the way from the Great Barrier Reef to “the Jewel of Morro Bay” – also known as a Sea World-esque marine institute in California.
Soon after arriving, Dory and the father/son duo are separated, but the mission is clear: Dory is certain her parents are at this institute, and she intends to find them at any cost. Marlin is predictably worried, though Nemo doesn’t once doubt Dory’s abilities.
While the father and son’s story takes a relative backseat to Dory’s harrowing exploration of the marine institute, their dynamic is a solid break from her perspective, and an important reminder of just how integral Dory is to Marlin and Nemo’s own family.
While they struggle to find Dory, Dory meets some friends of her own, like Hank, a wry, no-nonsense, camouflaging octopus voiced by none other than the perfectly cast Ed O’Neill. Hank isn’t really down with the marine institute’s “rescue, rehabilitate and release” policy.
In fact, Hank’s just fine in good ol’ captivity, and he makes no bones (or tentacles?) about the fact that he’s only helping Dory so he can use the tag she received upon arrival for a one-way trip to Cleveland.
It’s also worth noting that, while Hank seems to be the most talented and tricky animal out of the bunch thanks to some animated magic, his amazing camouflaging ability is absolutely based in scientific fact.
(Seriously, just search online for “camouflaging octopus” for some great examples of real-life cephalopod magicians.)
Dory also meets a fun and hilarious duo in Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), the nearsighted whale shark, and Bailey (Ty Burrell), the hypochondriac beluga whale who must learn to use his own special skill to help save the day.
In addition to the lead voice talent, and key additional supporting talent in Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy, there are some fantastic cameos from the likes of Sigourney Weaver, Idris Elba, Dominic West, Kate McKinnon, and Bill Hader.
While the plot is a bit all over the place, the message and theme are clear, including a very important question that Marlin and Nemo must ask themselves in times of trouble: What would Dory do?
Indeed, despite her forgetfulness, Dory proves to be a stalwart heroine and a loyal friend to everyone she meets. She’s easily inspired and quickly motivated by instinct. When all is said and done, even if the story behind “Finding Dory” is a bit less cohesive than its predecessor, it maintains the franchise’s heart and adventure. It may also earn far more laughs thanks to some well-written dialogue, well-developed and familiar characters and slapstick comedy – including one of the most bizarre third-act action sequences Disney/Pixar has ever produced.
Naturally, “Finding Dory” has the benefit of nostalgia when it comes to audiences in the 20- to 35-year-old crowd. It certainly also will appeal to younger crowds who may have only been introduced to the original “Nemo” film long after it was released.
Whether in 2-D, 3-D or IMAX, it’s definitely worth catching on the big screen, primarily for Disney/Pixar’s dependable animated glory, which, along with its memorable characters, never fails to entertain.
“Finding Dory” is available nationwide on June 17.