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Finding Dory




Finding Dory (PG)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

06/23/16
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



The forgetful fish of Finding Nemo remembers the family she didn’t realize she was searching for in Finding Dory, a sweet animated adventure tale.

Though it’s been some 13 years in people time since Nemo, for Dory (voice of Ellen DeGeneres) and her friends Marlin (Albert Brooks) and his son Nemo (Hayden Rolence) it’s been only a year or so. Happily living with her buddies on their reef, Dory, who has apparently always had trouble with remembering things, starts to remember bits of her childhood when the mention of an undertow brings back the memory of an undertow near her parents’ (Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy) home. The more Dory thinks about her early days, the more she remembers about her family. And the more she remembers her family, the more she urgently wants to go find them.
Though Marlin would prefer to stay safely with Nemo on the Reef, he understands the need to find one’s family and he and Nemo set off to help Dory find the “jewel of Morro Bay,” a remembered phrase that is one of the clues Dory has about her former home. Eventually, the gang makes its way to a California aquarium. When the group is separated, Dory makes friends with a grumpy octopus, Hank (Ed O’Neill), who agrees to help her find the exhibit she thinks she came from if she will give him the tag put on her by scientists. The tag will get him a trip to a comfortable life at a Cleveland aquarium, which Hank would prefer to being sent back to the ocean. Dory also reconnects with childhood buddy Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), a nearsighted whale shark, and meets Bailey (Ty Burrell), a fidgety beluga whale.
Meanwhile, Nemo and Marlin turn to a couple of helpful sea lions (Idris Elba and Dominic West, who I didn’t realize until after the movie had finally shared the screen again, if only in voice form) and a not-all-there bird named Becky for help getting into the aquarium to find Dory.
At its heart, Inside Out is a story about the emotions that mark the end of childhood and the beginning of adolescence and about how sadness in general is an important part of emotional health. Toy Story 3 is about the next stage — growing up and what that feels like for the parents (and toys) being left behind. Finding Nemo was in part about helicopter single dad Marlin trusting Nemo to be OK on his own. I mention these movies because while they share some of the beats and emotions of this movie, I’m not entirely sure what the core of Finding Dory is. We learn that Dory’s parents are worried about her ability to fend for herself and I guess there’s something about the idea of helping your children use their strengths, whatever those may be, to learn how to make it in the world. 
Probably to the movie’s benefit, it doesn’t hit too hard or spend too much time on this idea until its final, say, half hour or so, but there is so much other stuff packed into this movie, which mixes slapstick comedy and lots of emotional business into its quest/heist setup that the “what it’s all about” (if this is even what it is all about) tends to get lost. 
And the movie feels so packed — laughs! excitement! visuals! — and so tenuously tethered to a core idea that some of the more emotional moments (particularly the flashbacks to young Dory) felt a little too aggressively “Pixar wants you to cry.” Even the first 10 minutes of Up earned its sobs more than this movie feels like it does.
This is my criticism as an adult seeing this movie. But — and this can be hard to remember considering the emotional depth of many a Pixar movie — this movie isn’t really made for me. It is made for — well-made for but still primarily made for — kids. It is a tale of a fish on an adventure. The fish is sunny, friendly and relentlessly cheery, even in the face of great obstacles. She is a truly fun fish to spend time with, a more appealing main fish than Marlin or Nemo. The adventure is full of color and excitement and she meets some fun characters along the way. And, because the purpose of the adventure is to find her parents, it is easy for anybody who is old enough to see a movie in a theater (four, maybe, or five?; I still haven’t really decided) to understand the motivation behind her search. All of that works, works better than in your average (Dreamworks) kids’ movie. That it doesn’t have some, for me, deeply emotionally resonant core is OK. It has, as I said, a little bit of a thought nugget that will stay with me longer than the jokes about a puking fish or (in a scene very reminiscent of the toddler room at the preschool in Toy Story 3) touch tanks. I accept that not every Pixar movie is going to be transcendent; this one is simply a very good movie for kids that parents won’t hate watching as well. 
While my grade for Dory overall is “very good,” I think I’d give DeGeneres’ Dory an “excellent.” Like Amy Poehler in Inside Out, it can appear that DeGeneres has created a character not too different from how we’re used to seeing her. But I’d argue that Dory has more depth and inner conflict than her constant upbeatness suggests. DeGeneres gives her a vulnerability along with the can-do spirit and — not unlike the smaller members of the audience — Dory might not always have all of the information about a situation but she “gets” way more than those around her think she does. There are lots of good examples (Poehler and Phyllis Smith in Inside Out, for example) of voice performances as good as any live-action performance and I’d add DeGeneres’ Dory to the list. B+
Rated PG for mild thematic elements. Directed by Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane with a screenplay by Andrew Stanton and Victoria Strouse (and additional screenplay material by Bob Peterson and additional story material by Angus MacLane), Finding Dory is an hour and 43 minutes long and is distributed by Walt Disney Studios.
 





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