Review: Finding Dory

1464368844708 Pixar is one of those studio behemoths that have ingrained their standard of quality into the general viewing public, largely due to not only their stellar and revolutionary animation practices, but also due to the basic tenet of any good intellectual property: a well-crafted and engaging story. This is the sort of thing that has time and again separated Pixar from the standard children’s fare, why parents are constantly surprised that they enjoyed the movie as much as their little ones did. The success of this process is no more evident than in their recent foray into an old and trusted storyline, Finding Dory. Finding Dory revives an amazing cast from 2003’s Finding Nemo to portray beloved characters in what has to be a surefire hit for them, taking their standard formula and providing it again to a universe Pixar fans have been clamoring to see more of (maybe a request only topped by the desire for a sequel to The Incredibles). This results in what is an expectedly fantastic movie, bringing Finding Dory into the greater pantheon of acclaimed Pixar movies, if not to the upper echelon held by emotionally poignant classics such as Up or Wall-E.

The cast, featuring a great deal of cameos by returning characters, is really pumped up by an interesting and engaging supporting cast of new characters. Dory is voiced by, of course, Ellen DeGeneres in a fantastically fun portrayal that really highlights her comedic timing. We again have Albert Brooks as Marlin with cameos by Crush (Andrew Stanton), Mr. Ray (Bob Peterson), Gill (Willem Dafoe) and a slew of other memorables from the first film. While these are fun, a meat of the enjoyment of this film can be derived from the new characters: Ed O’Neill is a highlight of the film as the curmudgeonly-but-hilarious octopus Hank, Kaitlin Olsen adds a sense of genuine sweetness playing Dory’s childhood friend the whale shark Destiny, Ty Burrell provides an absolutely knee-slapping turn as Beluga whale Bailey, even Idris Elba takes a comedic turn playing a rowdy sea lion named Fluke. These characters, all residents of the marine sanctuary where Dory must search for her parents, really put this movie into that higher tier of Pixar productions. Genuinely cast with amazing writing that complements each actor perfectly, there is a lot to love about this supporting cast.

While Dory was one of the more fleshed out supporting characters in Finding Nemo, her history really serves as the basis of a majority of this film. The film is peppered with her backstory and bits of memories of her and her family as she searches out for them, despite her characteristic short term memory loss. These flashbacks can be seen as a bit numerous, but they also serve as an important foundation for and complement to Dory’s journey. Pixar does what it does best, tugs at the heartstrings just enough to make the viewer really care about the stories and fates of the characters they are watching, yet without forcing emotion on you. The nature of Pixar’s approach with Finding Dory is the unique, understated way in which the emotional impact of the film is presented. Really, the final scene sums this up best, a quiet but poignant interaction that shows growth and change for multiple characters.

However, this understatement of emotional impact is, perhaps, the one thing keeping this Pixar product from the high most tier of its movies. Finding Dory has an excess of comedy and cuteness (be warned, fish flashbacks means a plethora of adorable baby fishies) and in these areas it excels with aplomb. However, Pixar has reached so far for the story-telling stars with its recent output (notably Inside Out, Up, and Wall-E) that Finding Dory has a glaring omission of the same emotive sway of those other titles. While the ending scene is poignant and does show growth, this reveal comes so close to the end and with such reserved feeling that the effect is a bit bland. One leaves the theater wishing for just a bit more, just a push over the edge into a Pixar classic that can change how someone approaches the world, much less views it. This has been the great dueling educational/emotionally-compelling factors in the great Pixar titles that really push a story into that realm that transcends the movie and delves into life lessons, a real personal connection with the viewer.

Despite this, Finding Dory is an utterly enjoyable film; for a cutesy, entertaining, hilarious summer romp you could not ask for more. Kids will be thrilled, parents will be entertained, heartstrings will be tugged. The only thing missing is that transcendent sense of sentiment that drives people out of the theater with flowing tears and/or beaming smiles, the sort of gut reaction to something you didn’t only enjoy, but learned from. Despite this, Finding Dory is still eminently fun and has much more heft to it than your standard children’s fare, and it will be sure to entertain a summer going crowd ravenous for new, amusing movies to go out and see.

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