Finding Dory is a beautifully rendered and emotionally satisfying sequel to the 2003 Finding Nemo, taking place one year after the reunion of the Martin (Albert Brooks) and his son Nemo (now voiced by Hayden Rolence; however the original Nemo, Alexander Gould, now an adult, has a smaller role here).
The helpful in-spite-of-herself Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), the Pacific regal blue whose short-term memory issues were largely played for laughs in the first film, is now front and center as she remembers (in flashes) the loving family she once had; she convinces the wary Martin and Nemo to accompany her, only this time, you guessed it, Dory gets lost---and now, everyone has to find each other. It’s to the Pixar team’s credit that they find the right way to balance the humor and poignancy of Dory’s affliction—aided in no small measure by DeGeneres’ funny and moving work.
The true wonder of Finding Dory is that everything works so well—especially considering that we know how it’s going to turn out. It’s just a matter of Pixar assembling some of the better voice talent available, and in conjunction with the artists and writers, creating some memorable characters that audiences, young and old, will want to accompany all the way (I saw Finding Dory in a packed theater, along with many, many young children and their parents, and there was nary a peep during the movie except for the sounds of laughter and applause). Ed O’ Neill is Hank, a grouchy octopus (minus one tentacle) who seeks nothing but peaceful seclusion, yet agrees to help Dory. At first, it’s because Hank wants Dory’s tag—this item will guarantee him a peaceful life in an aquarium; however like many other characters, Hank reveals a softer side around Dory. Their scenes together are both marvels in comic precision while exhibiting a depth of feeling that is present in the best of the Disney and/or Pixar creations. Albert Brooks is also a welcome voice, and manages to imbue Martin with both wit and heroics to spare.
Finding Dory isn’t flawless, thanks to an unnecessary last-minute complication that prolongs the inevitable—but overall, it’s a largely satisfying tale that can stand on its own, even if you were remiss in Finding Nemo the first time.
I watched Independence Day last night before seeing Independence Day: Resurgence—and perhaps that was a mistake, since it’s crystal clear that though this sequel may be just as noisy as the first film, it lacks most of its other qualities: namely wit, characters you can root for, and a bit of heart. The aliens are back in force after a twenty-year hiatus—and so are some of the original case members, such as Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch, and Brent Spiner (as the quirky scientist who seemed to be quite dead in the first film). Will Smith’s character is no longer with us (he somehow survived aliens, but (according to the script) he could not survive testing a new plane—go figure). In his place, an assortment of young characters, including movie son Jesse Usher, rival Liam Hemsworth, and Maika Monroe as another pilot (and former President Pullman’s daughter) strive none too successfully to fill the void. The movie has a few affecting moments, mainly due to the returning players, and a couple of moments of wit, courtesy of Goldblum. But the pyrotechnics have all the impact of a lackluster Macy’s fireworks “spectacular” (London is being destroyed yet again—and so soon after London Has Fallen. And we won’t even comment on recent news events). Spoiler alert: the world does survive, but with the promise of another sequel, you may wish it hadn’t.