This has been a miserable summer for sequels. Except for “Captain America: Civil War,” follow-up films have gone belly up.
It’s time to add another film to the sequel win column. “Finding Dory,” the long awaited follow-up to the 2003 release “Finding Nemo,” has all the fun and charm of the original movie. In some ways – especially dealing with themes of friends and family – the sequel trumps the original.
Although it’s been 13 years since the first film, the action in the sequel takes place a year after Nemo was found. All seems right except blue tang fish Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) is having some mental flashes about her family. These are only wisps of thoughts because Dory still lacks short-term memory.
The flashes become so intense that Dory decides to find her family. Best friend Marlin (Albert Brooks), a clown fish, and his son, Nemo (Hayden Rolence), are afraid Dory’s efforts will end quickly as she forgets the plan.
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Driven by parental words of encourage that Dory recalls, she finds herself at a coastal marina where she was born.
This is where cranky Hank (Ed O’Neill), an octopus, steals the movie. Dory would be left high and dry except for Hank because she’s been tagged to go to a new exhibit in Cleveland. Hank wants to be her legs (and legs and legs and legs) if she will give him her tag. Hank doesn’t want to risk being released back into the ocean.
Directors Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane set a rousing tempo as Hank and Dory make their way through the facility. As wacky as it might sound, it even includes a high-speed car chase.
This is the kind of fun entertainment that will keep youngsters engaged. Stanton’s screenplay also deals with deeper issues that will hold the attention of adults.
The film’s biggest plus is the message about perseverance. Dory knows she has a memory problem, but she recalls her parents (Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy) stressing that as long as she just kept swimming, there was nothing she couldn’t do.
It’s a beautiful message that is delivered in such a tender manner it never sounds like the moral message of the month. It’s a thought that’s deep as any ocean.
Couple that with a very emotional scene dealing with shells and “Finding Dory” does a swimmingly marvelous job as a beautifully animated movie and a smartly crafted whale of a tale.
Voice casting across the cast is on target. DeGeneres again brings a weird tempo to the character, managing to make Dory funny and sympathetic, while Brooks is perfect as the voice of reason.
The best addition is O’Neill. Generally, he brings a gruff and grumpy vocal to the octopus. But he’s also a friend willing to lend a hand (a hand, a hand, a hand …) when needed. His work helps make Hank the break-out character.
The film’s small glitch is that there really is no villain. That means the natural tension of facing off against some killer sharks or the demented niece of a dentist aren’t there like the original. It’s a small blip, but it’s not enough to distract.
“Finding Dory” is an example of how to make a sequel work. Take all of the best elements of the original film, such as characters and talent, mix in a story that ranges from silly to sweet and present it in a package that will hit you with waves of visual splendor.
Don’t have a short-term memory loss. Remember to see “Finding Dory.”