13 years ago Disney/Pixar took us on a trip to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia to meet a clownfish named Marlin who was searching for his son, Nemo. The resulting film Finding Nemo remains a favorite animated feature in my household to this day; everyone has a different favorite joke, character, and line. Imagine our joy when two years ago the sequel Finding Dory was announced.
As always, the Pixar film is paired with a new short. Piper is about an adorably fluffy sand piper hatchling and his patient mother. It really puts the audience in the right mood for the feature; sweet baby creatures learning their talents and abilities despite the looming possibility of failure. Not their best, certainly, but extremely cute and beautiful to behold:
The first trailer for Finding Dory contains the opening sequence for the film, a heartwrenchingly adorable baby Dory searches for her ‘missing’ parents in a kelp forest. That tiny little voice pleading with passing fishes to help her find her family will give you pause, especially if you are a parent who has dreaded losing your child in a public place.
The film progresses from there, a time jump of “a year later” bringing us to Marlin, Nemo, and Dory living together back on the Reef after the events of Finding Nemo. Dory, her slippery mind still a constant battle for understanding from those around her, begins to remember snippets of her childhood and embarks on a mission to find where she came from and her parents. Albert Brooks returns to voice Marlin, newcomer Hayden Rolence takes over as Nemo, and Ellen DeGeneres “just keeps swimming” as Dory.
Little Blue sets off to locate her parents, using the memory of “The Jewel of Morro Bay California” as her heading. With the help of surfer turtle Crush, the fish navigate the various currents from Australia all the way to the Southern California coastline. They find themselves at a marine institute, where the helpful voice of Sigourney Weaver speaks from loudspeakers across the facility to give factoids and helpful information.
Dory is separated from Marlin and Nemo, but makes friends with Hank, a reluctant seven armed octopus voiced by Ed O’Neil. He agrees to help Dory locate her parents, but only if she gives him her transfer tag so he can go to Cleveland. Yeah. Cleveland.
We meet more characters at the institute, such as an extremely near sighted whale shark named Destiny (voiced by Caitlin Olson) and a beluga named Bailey (voiced by Ty Burrell) who thinks his echolocation is broken. Through teamwork and Dory’s ever increasing memory bank, a tearfully emotional reunion draws ever closer.
Without spoiling too much for you readers, be prepared to get a little weapy. If Inside Out was a way to introduce children to the realities of depression, Finding Dory will prepare them for the possibility of dealing with aging relatives who experience dementia and alzheimer’s. Even with cartoon fish experiencing these things, some emotional exchanges are difficult to watch, especially if you’ve seen such things first hand.
There are some lovely bright spots of humor though, including the sea lions. They are the new “Mine” seagulls, keeping fellow mermaid pitbull Gerold from perching on their favorite rock in the middle of the kelp forest. Also Becky, the crazed looking bird who helps Marlin and Nemo on their mission.
SCORE: 6.5 OUT OF 10
While the film doesn’t quite measure up in pacing to it’s predecessor, it does not fall flat, either. Except for the 3D, which isn’t really nessiscary. In doing the ‘glasses test’ a few times during the movie, not much was changed. So, skip the 3D and make a donation to your local open ocean preservation society instead.
Finding Dory opens worldwide on Friday, June 17th 2016.