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Three Views: Finding Dory

June 17, 2016

Finding Dory Review By John Corrado

★★★★ (out of 4)

Finding Dory PosterArriving thirteen years after the huge success of Finding Nemo, Finding Dory joins the ranks of rare sequels that we didn’t think we needed, but turn out to be emotionally resonant continuations of the stories set in motion by their predecessors.

Pixar has a long history of crafting entertaining and also deeply moving animated films, so I guess it should be no shock that a sequel to one of their biggest and most popular hits would turn out so well.  But Finding Dory is still pleasantly surprising in just how well it works, beautifully expanding upon the original story instead of just feeling like a retread.

The film opens with flashbacks of Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) as a big-eyed baby fish, with nurturing parents Jenny (Diane Keaton) and Charlie (Eugene Levy) trying to help her remember.  But when the forgetful fish gets separated from them, she ends up all alone, until Marlin (Albert Brooks) comes along looking for his son.  Flash forward to a year later, with Nemo (Hayden Rolence) safely found, and Dory starts having flashes of remembering her parents.  Following her newfound instincts, Dory ends up at the Marine Life Institute in California, a rehabilitation centre for injured sea creatures.  There she gets help from cranky “septopus” Hank (Ed O’Neil), who’s on the lam and trying to escape to an aquarium, nearsighted whale-shark Destiny (Kaitlin Olson) and the sonically challenged beluga Bailey (Ty Burrell), to try and find her long lost parents.

Director Andrew Stanton always said that he would only do a sequel to Finding Nemo if he could come up with a story that was on par with the first film, and I’m happy to say that Finding Dory more than lives up to this promise.  Similar to how the Toy Story franchise managed to come of age with its fans, this is also one of those sequels that will be even more resonant for those of us who grew up with the first film.  I was ten when Finding Nemo came out in 2003, so the film was naturally a pretty major presence in my own childhood, and Finding Dory works exceedingly well because it tells a story that operates on both nostalgia and a deep well of emotional connection to the characters.

This is Dory’s turn in the spotlight, but the film doesn’t just try to turn a beloved sidekick into the main protagonist, instead offering a genuine and deeply felt character piece that provides a compelling look at her backstory and how she is finding her place in the world after the events of the first film.  Ellen DeGeneres continues in the tradition of her brilliant voice work from last time around, delivering another delightful and emotionally nuanced performance.  The story touches on themes of memory and growing up, and will have added resonance for families who have special needs kids, filled with many wonderful metaphors of celebrating differences and learning to live with a disability.  Although Dory struggles with having short term memory loss, it’s also shown as what makes her unique, allowing her to live in the moment.  Dory will always hold a special place in my heart, and even more so after this film.

The film moves fast, striking the perfect balance between genuinely funny laugh out loud moments and sequences of gutting emotion, including deeply moving flashbacks and a haunting last act scene where Dory finds herself swimming alone in the darkness.  A slow motion set piece during the grand finale might just be one of the most ingeniously pulled off sequences that Pixar has ever done.  The animation is visually stunning throughout every scene, with the underwater vistas and other environments appearing almost lifelike, and some impressive crowd shots and swooping camerawork around the rehabilitation centre.  The new characters are instantly loveable and brought to life by the perfectly cast voice actors, including the curmudgeonly Hank, constantly quarrelling sea lions Fluke (Idris Elba) and Rudder (Dominic West), and a band of adorable sea otters that play a major role in the last act.

There is so much packed into Finding Dory, from the heartbreaking opening sequence to the poignant final scene, and an after credits stinger that ingeniously ties up a loose end from the first film.  Even the origins of Dory’s oft sung mantra “just keep swimming” are explored, giving added resonance to her inspirational refrain, with the equally uplifting new message of “what would Dory do?”  This is a sequel that manages to be funny, frequently adorable and also emotionally devastating, continuing in the proud tradition of its predecessor.  Put simply, Finding Dory is another Pixar winner.

Before Finding Dory, there’s the new short film Piper, the story of a baby sandpiper learning to get food on their own for the first time.  The title character is adorable, and the short boasts stunning and almost photorealistic animation of the sand and water, with some glorious depth of field shots that look like they came right out of a nature documentary.  It’s beautifully done.

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Finding Dory Picture 1

Hank (Ed O’Neil) and Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) in Finding Dory

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Finding Dory Review By Erin Corrado

★★★★ (out of 4)

Finding Dory opens with a flashback that leads us through Dory’s memories right up through Finding Nemo until 1 year later (when this film takes place).  Upon remembering details about her family, it dons on Dory that she has to go find them and that they must miss her as much as she now misses them.

Marlin at first is skeptical that they will even be able to find them, but when Dory remembers a specific location (Marine Institute) he agrees to try to help her.  So, along with Nemo, the three of them set out to cross the ocean to reunite Dory with her long-lost family.  As we are taken to the Marine Institute where much of the story takes place, we meet a whole cast of new characters including an octopus named Hank, a whale shark named Destiny, and a slightly odd and hopefully helpful bird named Becky.  The partially land-based institute provides ample challenges for our marine-based heroes to navigate and provides a very good backdrop to allow the characters to have to work together to accomplish their goals.

Growing up, Finding Nemo was one of my favourite Pixar films, and also one that I felt didn’t really need a sequel – after all, what would happen, find Nemo again?  But Finding Dory succeeds in feeling fresh, continuing nicely where the story left off, and expanding on the themes and character relationships of the previous film.  Watching Finding Dory in some ways felt like I was revisiting and watching an old classic of Pixar’s again, and not in a bad way – in many ways the storytelling and animation style (to match the first film) feel like an animated film from the mid-2000s and its this that actually makes the film such a success.  It feels new, but also as though it could have been made a year after Finding Nemo (when the story takes place) and this makes the two films fit so well together.

The cast does a great job as their characters, and the use of music throughout the film – both score and songs – is perfect.  The animation is gorgeous as expected, and I always love watching the underwater details.  But it’s some of the particular imagery here that has stuck in my mind, especially in the quiet unspoken scenes.  There is one scene close to the start of act three that hits you hard with its subtle emotional poweress – I won’t say what it is, just that it involves shells.  When you can find an image that can tell so much in a film with no words, and represent something both to the characters and audience, it is a special moment indeed.

As with Finding Nemo, along with the overarching themes of family, Finding Dory is very much about differences and how to deal with perceived ‘faults’.  The development of Dory’s character as seen from her perspective is incredibly well done.  While in the first film we saw her forgetfulness from the outsider’s perspective, here we are really brought into her own world and the way she personally struggles with her disability.  In some ways, that’s what the Finding Nemo films have always been about – learning to trust yourself and those you love despite your/their disabilities.

With Nemo it was the physical challenge of his small fin and Marlin’s anxiety, and with Dory it is the mental challenges she faces.  Especially in the flashback scenes, you see not just her short term memory loss, but also her distractability and ADD-type tendencies and I found them to be very accurately done, both from the child’s perspective and the concern from her family members.  In many ways, this film could have been called Understanding Dory, because that’s really what we truly get here (and thank goodness I’m not naming their films).

Overall, Finding Dory is one of the best films of the summer, and it is certainly worth seeing in a theatre – especially for those old enough to have grown up with the first film.  Like they did with Toy Story, Pixar has made a sequel that both honours and expands on the original.  And standing alongside Finding Nemo it is one I would gladly watch again.

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Finding Dory Picture 2

Rudder (Dominic West), Fluke (Idris Elba), Marlin (Albert Brookes) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence)

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Finding Dory Review By Tony Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

Finding Dory begins with scenes of young Dory (Sloane Murray) being patiently taught life skills by her parents Jenny & Charlie (Diane Keaton & Eugene Levy) who are sensitive to her short memory disability. Then she gets lost. The scene shifts to the present in a fish class with Marlin (Albert Brooks) and his son Nemo (Hayden Rolence) where Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) suddenly remembers she has parents that she must find. Recalling a location on the coast of California, Dory goes there with Marlin and Nemo, hitching a ride with the surfing turtles (voice of co-director Andrew Stanton).

At a marine sanctuary and aquarium the fish may find what they are looking for, with unexpected help from, among others, a brilliant if cynical octopus (Ed O’Neill), Dory’s childhood shark friend Destiny (Kaitlin Olson) and a beluga whale (Ty Burrell).

On a technical note, although the beluga’s imaging ability is too good to be true, the intelligence of the octopus character, as people are now discovering, may not be so far-fetched. Despite its conservation message, the release of Finding Nemo resulted in a run on the clown fish trade, leaving some local ocean areas depleted. At least clown fish can be bred in captivity. The same is not so for blue tang fish, whose days could be numbered thanks to ignorant fans. A stronger conservation tone in Finding Dory might have prevented this.

As expected, Finding Dory is beautiful to watch, especially in 3D. The cast is excellent, and the story is compelling and even exciting toward the end, with a strong theme about caring families.

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Consensus: Entertaining, emotionally resonant, and filled with great characters both old and new, Finding Dory is another poignant and beautifully animated winner from Pixar, that more than does justice to its beloved predecessor Finding Nemo. ★★★★ (out of 4)

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