My advice? Don’t even worry about it. Of course, “Finding Dory” isn’t as good as the original “Finding Nemo” was 12 years ago.
That, after all, was only one of the string of animated feature masterpieces that Pixar has turned out in an era replete with them (“Wall-E,” “Up,” “Toy Story 3,” “Inside Out” among others.)
All “Finding Dory” ever really needed to be is an honorable sequel (or prequel) to “Finding Nemo” and it would already be as good a reason to go to your friendly neighborhood megaplex as you’re likely to have all summer.
Especially if you’re going to the theater with little ones.
But there’s an extra added ironic fillip about “Finding Dory” that will not only make it a grand film to take little ones to but seniors, too. That’s because the whole premise of the movie is about a lovable little fish with short-term memory problems.
It’s the only thing in her life, in fact, that Dory never forgets. If she swims up to another sea creature and asks for help, she’ll immediately explain that she needs it because, well, she has short-term memory problems.
And then, two seconds later, she’ll forget completely whom she asked for help – and that she did it in the first place. All she’ll remember is why.
Now there is nothing the slightest bit funny about dementia – or, especially, such parent causes for the elderly as Alzheimer’s. But, as Bette Davis immortally said, “old age ain’t for sissies” and among the jokes elders always make among themselves (or with their families) are those that have to do with short-term memory losses.
So here is a brilliantly funny family film about sea creatures whose little blue heroine happens to suffer comically from the malady that grandma, grandpa and sweet Aunt Millie have been making jokes about for 10 years now.
We’re talking then about a family film for the whole family – little ones, seniors and all generations between.
And no, if it isn’t as marvelous to behold as “Finding Nemo” or as moving, it would be impossible to watch all 103 minutes of “Finding Dory” without a little mist in your eyes every now and then.
Nemo, you see, was found after the first film. Now it’s little Dory whom we see losing both her memory and her parents as a baby and who spends the whole film years later searching for some way to have them both back in her life.
I wouldn’t dream of telling you how that turns out at the end. But then if you’ve ever seen a Disney/Pixar film you already know (Sort of.)
What’s most important to know, obviously, is that you’ll have a grand time getting there most of the way. Longueurs are occasional, true, but writer/director Andrew Stanton didn’t just make the original, he made “Wall-E,” too. Is that enough of a pedigree, do you think for an animated filmmaker? I’d say so, to understate considerably.
What made “Finding Dory” necessary, I think, in the grand scheme of things is a show business world that has always underestimated Ellen DeGeneres. Except as a sitcom star – where she most definitely did not flourish – she is seldom, if ever, assumed in advance to be as good as she always turns out to be. But she is very funny here and terribly touching, too. She’s about as perfect a voice for an animated feature as you’re likely to find.
Albert Brooks is back as Marlin and Hayden Rolence plays his little son Nemo. The glorious Ed O’Neill is delightful as an octopus named Hank (who, it seems, lacks one tentacle, which officially makes him, says Dory, a “septopus”). Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton play Dory’s parents, Ty Burrell, Idris Elba, Dominic West, Kate McKinnon and Bill Hader are along for the ride.
Sigourney Weaver has a particularly droll role in the proceedings when most of the action turns to the Marine Life Institute and the attempted rescue of a truck full of fish headed for permanent residence in an aquarium in dreaded Cleveland. (Will West Coast dwellers ever cease making rote jokes about Great Lakes cities?)
Frankly, I can’t imagine an available actor turning down a role in one of these Pixar features. Beluga whales are as lovable here as octopi. So are the lazy seals. Humans aren’t really villains either, only their institutions.
Pixar, like some life-creating deity, loves us all, land and water creatures both. This summer millions of moviegoers will no doubt love them back. Of that you can be sure.
3.5 stars (Out of 4)
Title: “Finding Dory”
With the voices of: Ellen DeGeneres, Ed O’Neill, Albert Brooks, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Idras Elba, Hayden Rolence
Director: Andrew Stanton
Running time: 103 minutes
Rating: PG for emotionally intense story.
The Lowdown: How little Blue Tang Fish Dory came to lose her memory and her parents.