Sunday, June 19, 2016

Finding Dory

Film: Finding Dory

Starring: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks and Ed O'Neill

Directors: Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo) & Angus MacLane

U.S. Release: June 17th, 2016 (Rated PG)

Genre: Animated

Runtime: 103 minutes

Allow me to speak candidly about my adoration for Andrew Stanton's Oscar-winning animated masterpiece, Finding Nemo. Without a moment of hesitation, I loudly and proudly proclaim  it as the best animated film of this millennium. Not even Shrek, Up, Toy Story 3 or any of the countless other overwhelmingly successful Disney & Pixar releases manage to stand quite as tall as Marlin's cross-ocean journey to find his son. Therefore, upon hearing news of Stanton's long-awaited sequel, Finding Dory, I was forced to balance comparable levels of both joy and skepticism. Thankfully, this newest inclusion in the underwater saga is anything but a disappointment.

After the forgetful blue tang fish, Dory (voice of Ellen DeGeneres), helps her new clown fish friend, Marlin (Albert Brooks), find his son, Nemo, she begins to experience cloudy memories of her past. And as she pieces all of these thoughts together, Dory finally remembers her loving parents and embarks on a journey of her own to find them. But despite Marlin's lack of interest in venturing across the vast ocean yet again, he and Nemo join her on another fun-filled journey of family connection.

Much like his 2003 hit, Finding Nemo, Stanton's latest endeavor succeeds with its close attention to detail. As expected, the animation is spectacular and the story is cute and endearing. Yet, Finding Dory's most memorable moments come courtesy of a fresh new collection of quirky characters. Ed O'Neill shines as the voice of Hank, a cunning octopus with dreams of living the easy life at the Cleveland Aquarium. But Hank is merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the many hysterical new faces that Finding Dory introduces. Most sequels will attempt to reuse their supporting characters, story structure and other winning facets of the original in order to cash in at the box office. However, Finding Dory elevates its game and provides a wide arrangement of interesting new ideas and characters that make it a strong stand-alone film all on its own.

Despite culminating as a clear winning effort, there are a few areas of concern that prevent Finding Dory from shining as brightly as its predecessor. The biggest flaw lies in the film's unwillingness to stay grounded in reality. One of the most appealing aspects of Finding Nemo was, once humans were introduced into the film, the story still remains believable. To the contrary, Finding Dory completely breaks down in its third act and shatters any sense of realism that it ever achieved. Furthermore, the film's story is much narrower in scope than its source material. Consequently, Finding Dory is forced to rely heavily on cheaper writing tactics such as flashbacks and convoluted obstacles to help extend it's story. These blemishes are by no means detrimental to the film's success, yet they clearly create a divide between this entry and the upper echelon work that Disney & Pixar have provided over the years.

Tender, charming and witty all in large doses, Finding Dory is a guaranteed Oscar contender for Best Animated Feature and a worthy sequel. You'll fully embrace the return of these lovable characters as well as a fresh new batch that you can add to the list. June has been a rather disappointing month to the 2016 summer blockbuster season, but Finding Dory is a ray of sunshine that you should soak in before it's gone.

Stars: 3 stars out of 4

Grade: B

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