Sunday, June 19, 2016

Finding Dory

Finding Dory (2016) Starring the voices of Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Ed O'Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy. Directed by Andrew Stanton, Written by Andrew Stanton and Victoria Strouse. Produced by Lindsey Collins. Color. U.S.A. Run Time: 103 minutes. Animated. Comedy. Adventure.

Into every summer, a little sequel must fall and 2016 promises to be no different. Pixar, which has turned to making sequels almost as much as original stories, is back with a followup to Finding Nemo (2003). This time instead of a father, Marlon, looking for his son, Nemo, it's Dory looking for her own parents, played by Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy. If 13 years seems like a long time to wait, you're right, but in this case, the wait is almost worth it.

Now, the film has already opened to record numbers and will no doubt set some records along the way. It already has the largest opening for an animated film, so nothing I can say here will change anything, nor should it.

For the most part, the movie is really good. The animation is standard Pixar top-notch. The studio which set the standard for CGI animation continues to be its standard bearer, even under the Disney umbrella of companies. So there are no complaints there.

The voice acting, like in the predecessor, is also very good. I was worried going in that perhaps Ellen DeGeneres might have reached the saturation point with me. Since Finding Nemo, she has tried and become a television dynamo with one of the most successful daytime talk shows since the days of Oprah and she has tried, with varying results, to spread her brand into other genres, mostly reality, of TV. I remember her even before her film breakthrough being a very, very funny standup comedienne and the star of her own sitcom. Her Dory does not disappoint here, so I guess I haven't reached the saturation point with her yet.

Marlon (Albert Brooks) and Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) return from Finding Nemo.
Nemo is now voiced by Hayden Rolence; in the original he was voiced by Alexander Gould.

As I've written before, I'm a big fan of Albert Brooks and am always happy to see him, or in this case, hear him. His Marlon is pretty much the safe character as he was in Finding Nemo, cautious almost to a point.

Pixar has an innate ability to turn pretty much anyone into a successful voice actor, even people I wouldn't normally listen to; example Larry the Cable Guy from the Cars film franchise. In this case, Ed O'Neill, who sounds to me like he's summoning his inner J.K. Simmons, plays Hank, an East Pacific red octopus, stands out as one of the new characters. Like so many of the characters that populate this story, there is something wrong with him. In this case, Hank is not an octopus, as much as he's a "septopus", having previously lost one of his tentacles. There is also a near-sighted whale shark, Destiny (Kaitlin Olson); Bailey (Ty Burrell), a beluga whale who has lost his echolocation; Nemo (Hayden Rolence) with his "lucky" fin; and of course, Dory, who has lost her short term memory, to name a few.

Hank (Ed O'Neill) spends a lot of time out of the water in Finding Dory.

So, the animation and voice-acting are great, but it is the story that is the lesser of the three. To begin with there is not the same sense of magic that I felt from Finding Nemo. It's hard to put my finger on it, exactly, but it's just not the same, not quite as good. It doesn't help that the film seems to be filled more with contrivances than the first film. Of course, stories like this have to have them in order to work, but here they are just much more obvious. I don't want to say too much, don't want to give any of the plot away.

The film is right for children, pretty much avoiding the gross humor that now passes as family entertainment (I'm looking at you Angry Birds). If you haven't seen Finding Dory, then you should by all means do so. I'm not sure if you have to have seen Finding Nemo before you go. While this film refers to it, it doesn't necessarily rely on it and stands on its own. But there are moments, especially for those who stay through the credits, and everyone should, that will be enhanced if you have.

Like all Pixar films, there is a short that precedes it. This time around it's Piper, the story of a young Sandpiper chick that must overcome its fear of the ocean. The animation here is as about as realistic as it can be without being a live-action documentary. It is truly stunning to watch and shows just how far CGI animation has come. The story is cute if not somewhat predictable, but should not be missed.

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