Dory (voiced now and then by Ellen DeGeneres), the wildly popular blue tang from "Finding Nemo" (2003), has her own story now, co-directed by Andrew Stanton, who helmed the original and also directed "Wall-E", and Angus MacLane, who directed the TV short "Toy Story of TERROR!". Albert Brooks has returned to voice Marlin and 12-year-old Hayden Rolence takes over the voice of Nemo.
Pixar is masterful when creating memorable characters and Dory is no exception. Suffering from short-term memory loss made moviegoers fall in love with her when poor Marlin was trying so desperately to find his son Nemo. It is now a year later and Dory, out of the blue, remembers she has parents, Jenny (voiced by Diane Keaton) and Charlie (voiced by Eugene Levy) whom she lost. With help from Marlin and Nemo, she sets out to cross the ocean again to reclaim her family.
DeGeneres is as delightful as ever as the happy, worry-free blue tang. Dory knows she has a big problem because she can't remember things, but she possesses the positive motto "Just Keep Swimming" which serves her well. During their adventure, when Dory becomes separated from Marlin and Nemo, it is Nemo who begins to question, "What would Dory do?", and it proves to be immensely helpful in providing clever solutions for all.
Brooks isn't nearly as overwrought as he was in "Finding Nemo", but Marlin tries to establish himself as the voice of reason, if not slightly paranoid. Ed O'Neill provides the voice for newcomer Hank, a septomus who befriends Dory in her time of need, so he can get her coveted tag for export to an aquarium in Cleveland, Ohio. He's a cantankerous creature who doesn't like children --- especially being touched by them. But he and Dory manage to forge a deepening friendship which threatens his exile to the Midwest.
"Finding Dory" is absolutely fun entertainment for the entire family, though there is one particular scene when Dory finds herself very much alone in a rather dark and lonely part of the ocean, which could possibly frighten small children. But the story itself focuses on family and friendships, themes very familiar in Pixar films.
As enjoyable as "Finding Dory" is, I was not as enraptured as I was by either "Zootopia" or "The Jungle Book". Nor are these sea creatures as infectious as other characters from Pixar we've experienced in the past. Hank, and the near-sighted whale shark, Destiny (voiced by Kaitlin Olson), along with Bailey the beluga whale (voiced by Ty Burrell) are engaging enough, but they lack the endearing qualities belonging to such beloved characters as Dory herself, or Mr. Potato Head, Rex and Hamm from the original "Toy Story" (1995) and any of its sequels.
"Finding Dory" will have a strong place in the summer animation line-up. But with so many more to come, like "The BFG" from Steven Spielberg and "The Secret Life of Pets", "Finding Dory" may get lost in the Oscar shuffle.
Opinion: Mild See It Now!
Fans of "Finding Nemo" will surely flock to see its sequel, "Finding Dory", and they won't be disappointed. Many of the stars who lent their voice talents to "Nemo" have returned, most notably Ellen DeGeneres (Dory) and Albert Brooks (Marlin).
Dory is now an adult fish, but has retained her affliction of short-term memory loss. Her heart's passion is to be reunited with her parents, but to do so depends largely on her remembering clues she was taught, like following the clam shells laid out on the ocean floor by her dad, Charlie (Eugene Levy). Dory runs into all manner of obstacles, of course, but is aided by a particularly smart septomus (an octopus who lost one tentacle) named Hank (Ed O'Neill).
Again directed by two-time Oscar winner Andrew Stanton ("Finding Nemo" and "Wall-E"), "Finding Dory" has the same terrific animation that enthralled moviegoers before. I will say that "Finding Dory" is more geared towards young kids, as opposed to a film like "Zootopia" which is clearly intended for adults as much as children. And this sequel dwells too much on flashbacks and other devices that spell out Dory's crisis of not remembering things too clearly.
Still, the message rings loud and clear that friends and family are all vitally important elements of one's life, even if you're a fish. And who can resist the tiny voices of a young Dory and a young Nemo? Besides, with genius executive producer John Lasseter's stamp of approval on "Finding Dory", and crew members named Phat, Phred and Souixsie, what's not to like?
Opinion: Mild See It Now!