Finding Dory (2016)
★★★ / ★★★★
The follow-up of “Finding Nemo,” a Pixar Animation Studios masterpiece, does not live up to its predecessor as a whole but nonetheless one that is highly entertaining and heartfelt. One characteristic that surpasses the original, however, is the visuals. Notice the confidence in how it changes the tone, flavor, and feel with each vastly or subtly different environment—sometimes within the span of mere ten seconds. Consider such a trait when taken side-by-side with other, lesser animated films. They look claustrophobic, cheap, and laughably one-note by comparison.
Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres), a blue surgeonfish who suffers from short-term memory loss, suddenly remembers that for years she has been looking for her parents (Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy). Convinced that they are still alive and looking for her, clownfish Marlin (Albert Brooks) and his son, Nemo (Hayden Rolence), volunteer to help their endearingly forgetful friend. Overwhelmed by pieces of the past that have popped into her head, Dory informs her companions that they must find a way to go to California. Marlin knows the reptile for the job.
Perhaps the film’s biggest limitation is its utilization of one too many flashbacks. These images show how Dory’s parents teach their young child small ways how to get around or overcome her condition. While two or three scenes are genuinely moving because these lessons of survival are usually disguised as fun games, these flashbacks are very short, sudden, and numerously dispersed. As a result, the momentum of the picture is disrupted continuously. Eventually, I grew exasperated from seeing more of Dory’s memories because they become very repetitive. I got the feeling that the filmmakers were treating us like we had memory loss, too.
The picture introduces a memorable supporting character: an octopus (Ed O’Neill) with seven tentacles who does not like to be touched—especially by children. Every time Hank the quick-tempered “septopus” moves, he commands attention. The beauty and impressive attention to detail of Hank’s animation can be most appreciated during sequences where he must take Dory from one area of the Marine Life Institute—where sea creatures are taken to be rehabilitated—to another.
The energy and number of elements that must be juggled expertly to create a convincing and engaging—not to mention funny, clever, and entertaining—plight reminds the viewer of the best sequences of the “Toy Story” series. The filmmakers are able to answer this question with specific, fun-filled details: How do you get sea creatures, many of which depend on constantly being in water to survive, across an aquatic amusement park without humans noticing something odd?
“Finding Dory,” directed by Andrew Stanton, undergoes a few hiccups with its flashbacks, but it nevertheless delivers top-grade animation and storytelling. It is certain to charm and delight young children, adults, and everyone in between because creativity is abound. It may not be a necessary sequel but it is absolutely a welcome one.