Sink or Swim? FINDING DORY Movie Review

Some movies are polished, shiny diamonds wrapped up in the perfect package with a neat little bow on top. PIXAR’S 2003 FINDING NEMO is one of these perfect little shining gems. FINDING DORY, therefore, had a lot to live up to in my mind. While it doesn’t quite reach the polished heights, wonder and heart of FINDING NEMO, FINDING DORY is a fun little film with many new characters that kids will enjoy (and want the toy).  Continue reading for our full, spoiler-free, FINDING DORY movie review.

FINDING DORY

When Dory finds herself in the Marine Life Institute, a rehabilitation center and aquarium, Hank—a cantankerous octopus—is the first to greet her. Featuring Ed O’Neill as the voice of Hank and Ellen DeGeneres as the voice of Dory, “Finding Dory” opens on June 17, 2016. ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

The title character is, of course, Dory, featuring Ellen DeGeneres as the voice of our favorite forgetful fish. Only a year has passed in her life since she helped the overprotective clownfish Marlin (Albert Brooks) find his son Nemo (Hayden Rolence). Dory continues to deal with her short-term memory loss, which annoys the adults in her life, but she gets flashes of the parents (Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton) she was separated from as a baby, as well as memories of where she grew up.

These flashbacks are certainly highlights. Dory the magnet has a coveted spot on my refrigerator door because she’s so cute. But if you think Dory is cute, just WAIT until you see baby Dory. She may be the most adorable PIXAR character ever created! There was an audible chorus of “awww” in my audience the moment baby Dory appeared. I won’t spoil it here, you’ll just have to go see the film.

Our story continues: Like FINDING NEMO, a quest begins as Dory and her pals travel the EAC to California and the Marine Life Institute, where they get separated. Nemo and Marlin befriend a pair of sea lions (Idris Elba and Dominic West) and Dory enlists the help of a crusty octopus named Hank (Ed O’Neill), whose only goal is living out his days in a Cleveland aquarium. Hank is the typical cantankerous character with a heart (or three) of gold. Beyond Dory’s story, Hank is the second character to make a great impression. Kids will be wanting a plush Hank!

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As the above merchandise suggests, kids will love this movie. Some of the characters’ antics are super funny. While many PIXAR films ride the line between jokes for adults and jokes for kids, FINDING DORY seems more geared toward kids. I know that as an adult I didn’t enjoy them as much as the little kids giggling all around me. But the seals going “Off! Off! Off! ” still kills for all ages.

While charming, FINDING DORY suffers from an uneven tone. The movie tries to up the stakes by placing our characters in the middle of a car chase sequence more reminiscent of a Bond film, but you can’t top the sweeping drama of crossing an entire ocean in FINDING NEMO. Dory herself works better as a part of an ensemble cast. With so much attention on her, the amnesia bit which seemed so quirky and cute in NEMO gets old quick. Luckily the whale shark Destiny (Kaitlin Olson) and her beluga buddy Bailey (Ty Burrell) steal some of that focus as they work together to help Dory find her parents.

FINDING DORY

Kaitlin Olson as the voice of the whale shark Destiny and Ty Burrell as the voice of Bailey the Beluga whale, ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

 

Like all PIXAR films, every swish of the fin and line of dialogue leads to a great message, and FINDING DORY is no exception. From “Just Keep Swimming” to “What Would Dory Do?”, we learn how to deal with life’s little problems and what family really means. I encourage you to read behind-the-scenes stories from the press event, as director/co-writer Andrew Stanton, producer Lindsay Collins, Ellen DeGeneres and the leading voice cast shed some light on this film and its messages. I didn’t even think about what this film could mean for people with learning disabilities, but the cast and crew really go into that at the press event. FINDING DORY could quite possibly be to disabilities what INSIDE OUT was to helping express your emotions.

Piper Short

Each PIXAR film is preceded by a short film, and PIPER might just be the cutest short yet. It features a hungry baby sandpiper bird learning to feed himself while overcoming his fear of water. The little piper meets an even smaller hermit crab, and cuteness ensues.

“It’s the kid at the playground feeling,” says director Alan Barillaro. “You fall down and you feel so small, but you look and see someone even smaller than you brush themselves off and tackle something, and learn from that in your own way. It was important to me to stay in the kid world and see the world from Piper’s eyes, and not be from the human perspective.”

FINDING DORY

PIPER – Concept Art by Jason Deamer (Production Designer). ©2016 Disney•Pixar. All Rights Reserved.

 

Go see FINDING DORY, go see PIPER, and let me know what you think!

FINDING DORY

Make sure to join Dory, Nemo and Marlin on their new adventure when FINDING DORY opens across the country on Friday June 17, 2016.  For more family movie news, be sure to follow Adventures by Daddy on twitter and “like” our facebook page too.

About Richard & Sarah Woloski

Richard and Sarah Woloski are the co-hosts and creators of the Disney / Star Wars Podcast Skywalking Through Neverland. The husband and wife team strives to create a polished, positive and fun weekly show celebrating fandom. They also love writing for Adventures By Daddy. Find them @SkywalkingPod