Finding Dory full movie review - Despite an overly talky Act I, Pixar's animated fish tale will charm you incessantly in Acts II and III
Thirteen years ago Pixar released the mega-successful Finding Nemo starring two clownfish, Marlin and Nemo, with their buddy, a regal blue tang fish named Dory.
Albert Brooks is back as Marlin and Ellen Degeneres again plays Dory, saddled throughout with short-term memory loss. Finding Dory amounts to a spin off of Finding Nemo, with Dory now playing the lead and Marlin and Nemo doing the honors as gracious sidekicks.
Perhaps the most problematic aspect of the Finding Dory narrative is the Act One machinations. The inciting incident involves Dory's separation from her parents who are part of an open ocean exhibit at a rehabilitative Marine Institute in California; after she's caught in an undertow Dory finds herself on the other side of the Pacific and is reunited with Marlin and Nemo.
Dory, with her short term memory loss, represents an opportunity not only to exploit comic possibilities but also to make an important point that parents who have children with developmental disabilities should never give up on them and continue to encourage whatever latent abilities to improve themselves, they might possess.
Dory's parents, Jenny and Charlie (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy) are the prototypical nurturers who make periodic appearances in a series of flashbacks throughout the film. Despite all the approbation, Dory still suffers from lack of self-esteem, and it's only through her journey of self-discovery that she overcomes her self-deprecating self-absorption.
The scenarists perhaps at this juncture have made the mistake of explicating Dory's predicament ad infinitum, resulting in a lugubrious Act One, featuring much too much talk and little action. There's a nice little scene of a stingray migration, Dory, Marlin and Nemo hitching a ride on the back of a sea turtle taking them to California and perhaps the only scary moment for young children? an encounter with a menacing squid who puts a nice little scare into our determined protagonists.
Surprisingly, it's the voice of Sigourney Weaver playing herself that signals the break into an exciting and much more gripping Act Two?here Weaver is the voice of the Marine Institute, where our fish heroes interact with a coterie of human characters devoted to creating obstacles which prevent Dory from both finding her parents and ultimately saving her best buddies, Marlin and Nemo.
When Dory is inadvertently twisted up in a six-pack ring, she's scooped up by staff members from the Marine Institute and tagged and sent to the quarantine section. There she's aided by the seven-legged octopus, Hank, who oddly derides ocean life and would prefer to live out the rest of his days in quarantine (in Cleveland of all places)?all Hank wants is Dory's tag and he agrees first to help her find her parents.
Dory ultimately learns that her fellow regal blue tangs are all in quarantine and probably hold the secret as to the fate of her parents. Along the way at one of the exhibits, Dory meets her childhood friend Destiny, a benign, near-sighted whale shark, and her companion, Bailey, a beluga whale who's been attempting to recover his powers of Echolocation after a purported head injury. Note that the two whales are as goofy as Dory and are another example of the intentionally designed non- threatening marine life, guaranteed not to scare away younger viewers.
Both Dory as well as Marlin and Nemo take circuitous routes to arrive back in quarantine. Hank, operating a runaway stroller with his tentacles through the Institute, is guided by Dory, who gives directions while ensconced in a fishbowl. They end up in the enormously clever children's "Touch Pool," where they both are almost scooped up by "possessed" children, desperate for contact with the sedentary marine life in the pool beneath. Only Hank's sudden release of black ink flooding the pool, saves our protagonists from not accomplishing their ultimate objectives.
Meanwhile, Marlin and Nemo have their set of allies who aid them in their quest to find Dory. The hilarious sea lions Fluke and Rudder end up summoning the disfigured loon, Becky, and are aided by the nerdy Gerald, who provides the pail for Becky to transport Marlin and Nemo into the innermost cave of the Institute. Once inside, Marlin and Nemo propel themselves out of a tank by hopping over columns of jet sprays. Once Dory, Marlin and Nemo are reunited, Dory faces the "dark moment" at the end of ACT 2?where she incorrectly comes to believe that her parents have died?after her encounter with her fellow regal blue tangs. Fortunately, the dire belief is short- lived, once Dory finds the shells her parents have left for her?now she has a joyous reunion with her parents who reveal they've waited for her this whole time. Note here Dory loses her self-pity and becomes self- actualized?now she must save Marlin and Nemo who are still stuck in the truck headed for Cleveland that has just left the Institute.
Despite their absurdity (and perhaps that's what makes it so enjoyable), the Act 3 machinations are very satisfying. How does Dory get the truck to stop so he and Hank can take command of it? Just have a bunch of very cute otters crawl up the side of the bridge, crawl out onto the highway, and stop traffic. How does the truck, pointed in the wrong direction, get back to the Institute? Just have Hank grab control of the steering wheel with Dory again providing directions, ensconced inside a fish bowl this time on the truck's dashboard! And finally dig the slow motion scene where the truck crashes through the railings, the back door flings open and all the fish fall back into the ocean.
Despite its slow start, Finding Dory morphs into an adorable animated action film for both adults and children. Ellen Degeneres and Albert Brooks manage to finely provide the obligatory comic relief as well as important encouragement for parents and children who are dealing with the spectre of childhood developmental disabilities.