Movie Review: Finding Dory

By Matthew Huntley

June 22, 2016

Something's fishy around here.

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How the rest of the story rolls out is, for the most part, in line with our expectations. Dory gets separated from Marlin and Nemo (hence the film's title) and we meet a host of (literally) colorful characters, including Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), a nearsighted whale shark whom Dory knew growing up; a beluga named Bailey (Ty Burrell), who's currently struggling with echoing; and a disgruntled octopus named Hank (Ed O'Neill). Dory finds them all at the Marine Life Institute, which looks vaguely familiar to her, and after being captured and tagged for transfer to the Cleveland Aquarium, she strikes a deal with Hank: if he gets her to the “open ocean” to find her parents, she'll give him her tag so he can live a comfortable life in the aquarium instead of the wild.

Marlin and Nemo, meanwhile, meet a pair of smart aleck, observant sea lions with gritty London accents named Fluke (Idris Elba) and Rudder (Dominic West). They call upon their bird friend Becky to transport Marlin and Nemo inside the park in hopes they'll find Dory, but they end up facing their own challenges.

All of this leads to a series of risks the characters must take to ensure they end up back together, and even though the narrative follows a classic “one hurdle after another” structure, the filmmakers execute each dilemma with such energy and enthusiasm they manage to come across as fresh.


Yet, the real heart and lasting effect of the movie comes during a critical scene in which Dory learns something about herself. She's back in the open ocean but she's lost and alone, and she repeats to herself, “What would Dory do?” Slowly, she practices mindful thinking and works her way through plant life and sand, directing and talking to herself out loud when all of a sudden...well I'll let you find out what happens. But the time and patience director Andrew Stanton devotes to this scene are the kind rarely seen in family pictures, which tend to operate on the principle that something big, busy and action-packed must always be happening so as not to lose viewers' attention. But moments like these grab our attention more. Seldom do computer-animated family movies slow down and simply allow the characters to reflect on their present situation. And it's not just the fact the movie allows this to happen that makes it great; it's that the story has built itself up toward this moment and it becomes a strong emotional payoff.

Finding Dory may not be entirely cutting edge, but it's wonderful and heartfelt just the same. True, there's a “safeness” and “easily digestible” factor to it, but it's also thoroughly entertaining, funny and moving. Its message is clear: friends and family are forever and they're always worth finding. We've heard this before from Pixar, and no doubt we'll hear it again, but perhaps the reason the studio is so successful and reputable is because its messages are those we all know to be true and that help guide us toward fulfillment. Maybe that's also why we usually walk out of a Pixar film so overwhelmingly happy.

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