Friday, June 17, 2016

Finding Dory

Pixar's first sequel since Cars 2 returns audiences under the ocean for the follow up to 2003's Finding Nemo. This time our story is centered around Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), the Pacific regal blue tang suffering from short-term memory loss who helped Marlin (Albert Brooks) find his lost son Nemo (Hayden Rolence) in the original film. With her dim memory sparked, Dory sets out to find her parents with Marlin and Nemo in tow. However, it's not long before Dory and her friends are separated and she must fend for herself.

Although I enjoy Finding Nemo, if I rank my favorite Pixar films it's always near the bottom. The sequel, however, surprised me. Making Dory, rather than Marlin, the main character of the film makes for a more engaging story with a far more likable lead. The supporting cast surrounding Dory is also more vibrant the second time around including an ill-tempered scene-stealing septopus named Hank (Ed O'Neill), a near-sighted whale shark (Kaitlin Olson), a beluga whale (Ty Burrell) with performance issues, sea lions, the odd loon Becky, and the most adorable bunch of sea otters you've ever seen on film.

It's not often you find a sequel you enjoy more than the original. Finding Dory delivers just such an experience. The combined innocence, helplessness, and ingenuity of the character makes for some great storytelling as we root for Dory to work her way out of a problem in her own unique way. Here her memory issues aren't a quirky characteristic of the comic relief but integral the entire story.

There was never any doubt that Marlin would find Nemo in the first film, and learn a valuable lesson at the same time. This time, given Dory's unreliable memory and the amount of time which has passed since she was separated from her parents, the outcome if more uncertain. And although the movie may not have the huge emotional gut punch of some Pixar movies, I'll admit it did cause me to tear up at one point.

Finding Dory isn't just a film about coming to understand what family is and what it means but it's also a celebration of Dory's quixotic nature. More than once a character asks themselves "What would Dory do?" as her uncanny ability to solve a problem (even if she doesn't completely understand it) usually lands her exactly where she needs to be. Dory is the outcast. Awkward and often annoying to even her friends, she still provides the unquestionable heart of the film. It's impossible not to root for her to succeed (especially for all of us awkward dreamers out there).

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