May 29, 2023

Gabbing Geek

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Geek Review: Finding Dory (NO SPOILERS)

Dory, Marlin, and Nemo return to the big screen as they go looking for Dory's long-forgotten parents.

Finding Nemo was a fun, fun film.  While the plot was hardly revolutionary (heck, it was rather straightforward if you think about it), the movie had some fun as Marlin the clownfish tried to rescue his son Nemo from a dentist’s aquarium, aided only by Dory, a fish with short-term memory problems.  Dory herself was a charming sidekick, and now the sequel appears with Dory relegated to the lead role as she tries to locate her family.

How was the movie?

Not bad, but hardly Pixar’s best.

Finding Dory takes the Dory character and puts her in center stage.  Dory, voiced again by Ellen DeGeneres, is a fun and charming character.  That said, I am not sure she is a good lead character.  Dory works best when she’s bouncing off another character like Marlin (Albert Brooks).  Since the two are separated rather quickly, it leads to Dory having to make her own way to find her mom and dad.  True, for much of it she is paired with a cranky octopus named Hank (Ed O’Neil), but chunks of the film deal with Dory being on her own.  As a lead, Dory makes a good sidekick.  DeGeneres makes Dory fun, but the story can’t make her a good lead.

And while this is going on, Marlin and Nemo are looking for Dory.  Dory remembered her parents were in California (why fish know the name California I do not know but they all do), specifically inside some sort of oceanic institute that rescues, rehabilitates, and releases various fish.  While it’s good the place isn’t a SeaWorld type of place, it does limit the action from the first film when Marlin and Dory had a very vast ocean to explore.  And though Dory actually has some childhood friends there, as well as Hank who just wants the tag Dory is wearing that would ship her to Cleveland’s aquarium which just so happens to be Hank’s only ambition in life, Dory has to find her parents on her own.

There’s some nice casting gimmicks in this movie.  The Wire alums Dominic West and Idris Elba voice a pair of seals.  That’d be the third time this year I’ve heard Elba’s voice in a movie but didn’t see him.  Kate McKinnon, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Bill Hader, Sigourney Weaver, Kaitlin Olson, and Ty Burrell also voice different roles.  And since the time that passed narratively between movies means Alexander Gould has gotten too old to voice Nemo himself, he did get cast in a smaller role all the same.

The true standout here may be Hank.  Constantly changing colors and morphing into the background, the cranky octopus is quite the scene-stealer.  That may be why he features so prominently in the closing credits.  But as much fun as the movie is, it could have been a lot better.  DeGeneres’ fantastic voice work and the use of Hank propel the otherwise by-the-numbers sequel up a bit, but I would give it no more than eight out of ten poking fingers.  Kids will probably love it, and adults won’t mind it.

Oh, and make sure you stay through the closing credits.

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