By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Swim, and ye shall find.
It’s been thirteen years since the original anthromorphic animated attraction swam our way, but of course we welcome the spinoff/sequel to the cartoon classic, Finding Nemo.
That’s because there was nothing fishy about that fishiest of fantasies, the 2003 Oscar winner for Best Animated Feature, a monumental achievement that remains a delightful and resonant entertainment.
But while it wouldn’t be fair to say that the witty and winning supporting character of Dory “stole” the original film, she was one of the important elements in its overall flavor and impact.
In Finding Dory, the optimistic regal blue tang fish voiced so memorably by Ellen DeGeneres as a supporting character in the father-son original is front and center in this richly — make that amazingly — detailed and dazzling underwater environment.
Finding Dory finds Dory, whose origin story this is, a year or so later, still saddled with short-term memory loss, which is both her condition and the source of her unique charm.
Despite the title, it’s actually Dory who’s doing the looking this time in what turns out to be a journey of self-discovery.
And now some of her usually irretrievable childhood memories are coming back to her, enough that she can embark on a quest to reconnect with her long-lost parents (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy), whom she takes after accompanied by the two fish she came to the aid of in the first film, Marlin the woebegone clownfish (Albert Brooks) and his cherished and found son, Nemo (Hayden Rolence).
Among the denizens of the deep the friendly amnesiac meets on her splashy journey to the Monterey Marine Life Institute, a seaside theme park and research center in California (accompanied by the voice of Sigourney Weaver as a constant presence on the loudspeaker), where Dory grew up, are Bailey, a snub-nosed beluga whale voiced by Modern Family’s Ty Burrell; Destiny, a whale shark given voice by It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Kaitlin Olson; Hank, a crusty octopus that sounds a lot like Modern Family’s Ed O’Neill; and Fluke, a lazy sea lion voiced by Idris Elba.
Writer-director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, A Bug’s Life, WALL-E, John Carter) returns at the helm, with debuting Angus MacLane as his co-director.
Stanton’s family-celebrating screenplay (co-authored with Victoria Strouse), which is sometimes a bit preachier than it needs to be as an allegory for special needs, is a tribute to Dory’s predicament and perseverance, opening up with an arrestingly emotional montage that establishes Dory’s short-term memory loss not as a quirk – as it mostly was in the first film – but as a disability that must be coped with.
Thus does this splendid amalgam of comedy, poignancy, and adventure establish an urgency and immediate rooting interest in Dory’s eventual hunt for her parents.
Not that Dory was a one-trick pony as the first film’s comic relief, but she has been impressively embellished for the sequel, rendering her an appealing, sympathetic, and worthy protagonist.
As for the impact of the film itself, falling just a bit short of its illustrious predecessor is not exactly a failing, is it?
So we’ll submerge 3-1/2 stars out of 4 for a fabulously fluid follow-up. Will viewers have trouble finding Finding Dory adorable? As they say on land, fugetaboutit.