Review: ‘Finding Dory’

‘FINDING DORY’: MAKING GROWN MEN CRY ABOUT ANTHROPOMORPHIZED SEA ANIMALS SINCE 2003

[yasr_overall_rating] • 4.5 STARS



If you know anything about how I write movie reviews, my process is something like this: Go and watch, take a line of notes, itemizing the one-liners or the events that stood out as a reminder to the nuance of the events I find compelling. I can use those notes to later detail that event, fill some copy, and act as though a more-realized review is sitting available to all of my fifteen daily readers.

This time, I took a lighter approach. I’ll speak directly from the heart, and none from the notes, since this is where the movie plays at.

Finding Dory is the rare sequel that is better than the original. The movie fleshes out the fan-favorite Blue Tang from 2003’s Finding Nemo, filling in the back-story of how and why Dory came to be where she was when Nemo’s clownfish-of-a-father Marlin (Albert Brooks) came across her in the first film. The back-story fills in, with mystery, Dory’s, ahem, childhood, if you will, though screen writer and producers leave the details intentionally ambiguous, as the arc is not just father-and-son clownfish finding Dory, but Dory trying to find remnants of her childhood as well. The title works as a double-entendre: Finding Dory is both literal in the adventure promised, but also, given Dory’s life-long curse of “suffer(ing) from short-term memory loss,” the movie serves as a vehicle for the titular character to find herself.

And so, handicap and all, she tries. The charm, the wit, the love, the lessons; all are here to appreciate in their full wonder. The scenes and sets are as large and sweeping as the oceans being shown. The characters are dynamic, interesting, beautiful. ‘Dory’ revisits old, familiar characters and brings us a whole cadre of new ones, including a disembodied one that serves to be a guide, as well as a continuous running gag that will reintroduce this actor to a whole new generation of movie-goers. Her name will be (more) famous with a whole new generation that will know her from this, and not the decades of work she’s done before. Just you wait. Mark my words: she’ll be this generation’s Tim Curry, better known for his work by Millenials as the desk attendant in Home Alone 2 than Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Ed O’neill steals the show. You know him as Al Bundy in Married With Children, or more recently, Sofia Vergara‘s geriatric husband, Jay, on ABC’s Modern FamilyHe plays Hank, the octopus you see in the trailer. He’s amazing, and I can only hope more animated roles with as much range are offered up to him the future. Hank is the most memorable character of the movie, and for good reason. Hank delivers the heart and soul of this movie, carrying the action almost as much as Ellen Degeneres, voice of Dory. This pairing need more camera time in what I can only hope will be a continued big-screen franchise.

One real issue I have with movie, and I’ll make this short: Mental handicap seems to be played on as a butt of jokes, and if I was sensitive to this, I could see where strong objections could be made. Characters Ed, Rebecca, Bailey, and Dory all have mental handicaps in varying severity, and all are played to laughs with varying cruelty by the more “normal” characters. Normal being relative, of course, considering the anthropomorphization of, for example, seals, but I digress. The jokes didn’t all finish with redemption for the handicapped, and that could be bothersome to some. I was particularly bothered with how Ed was treated, and no particular resolution or karmic justice to be had for a completely innocent character.

That said, I left the theater puffy-eyed and sniffle-nosed, but with a smile on my face. The movie is lovely, charming, and a fantastic sequel that more than justifies it’s existence by moving the story forward, further developing all the characters we know, and introducing us to some new and beloved ones we look forward to seeing more of as the franchise develops. It is worth it to see in theaters, if but to support a third movie, undoubtedly already being planned.

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