Movie still from 2016's "Finding Dory."

 Finding Dory June 21, 2016 

Despite being bitter that the elementary-aged children who sat in front of me during last night’s late-night showing of Finding Dory didn’t have to wait thirteen years for its premiere, I can confidently confirm that the film, which is the long awaited follow-up to 2003’s Finding Nemo, is a sequel that is (unsurprisingly) worth the wait.  Drawing upon its predecessor’s remarkable ability to find the link between heartrending dramatics and quippy comedy, it’s further proof that Pixar is incapable of doing wrong.  Unless you take 2016’s game-changing Zootopia into consideration, it’s the best animated movie of the year.

 

It’s only June, sure, but I’m certain it will be nearly impossible to find a family focused offering as intelligently written, as richly animated, or as exceptionally voiced as Finding Dory is.  Taking place a year after the events of Finding Nemo (a fact I combated with an eye roll due to my incessant waiting), the film follows Dory, a fickle blue tang saddled with short-term memory loss, as she attempts to look for her family, whom she begins to suddenly remember through inexplicable flashes of memory.  Though she’s found a familial connection with Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence), the father-son clownfish pair of the first movie, she isn’t much interested in ignoring the hanging question mark of her past.  Dory is infatuated with the idea of discovering where she came from, and no one, not even the severely anxious Marlin, can stop her.

 

And so begins an epic journey, one that involves both strategic maneuvering and small doses of self-discovery.  Marlin and Nemo, though pivotal, do end up taking a back seat to new, scene-stealing additions to the ensemble, including Ed O’Neill (who voices Dory’s grumpy, octopus sidekick), Kaitlin Olson (a whale shark with an endearing relation to Dory’s past), and Ty Burrell (an eccentric beluga whale).  Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy earnestly voice Dory’s evasive parents.  In the tradition with Pixar’s most memorable movies, the voice casting is the secret weapon that propels everything, from a snappy one-liner to an emotional confrontation, to indelible heights.  As was the case in Finding Nemo, the work of DeGeneres is so transcendent that Dory practically jumps off the screen.

 

So we should consider ourselves fortunate that co-writer (with Victoria Strouse) and director Andrew Stanton knows how to give DeGeneres and her supporting players great material to work with.  Like the movie preceding it, the title both literally involves searching for someone and also searching for oneself.  Because Finding Dory is more sweetly sentimental than the decidedly farcical Nemo (if my youthful memory serves me well), the quest for self-actualization is movingly drawn but otherwise executed with understated lushness.  Children will adore the thrilling misadventures of the film (as will adults), but Finding Dory is even more than what its clever antics make it out to be.  Its emotional nuances are what make it such a touching piece — it’s an instant classic deserving of multiple viewings.

 

It’s been long in the making, and yet we forgive Pixar’s lack of urgency because Finding Dory is so incomparable.  It’s a family movie with a sense of humor, an exquisite visual palette, and, most importantly, a soul.  It doesn’t resort to formula as a cheap way to grab our money and hit the road, cackling at our desperation — we feel as though we’re being catered to, and, thirteen years later, that’s a luxury.  Once I see the release of The Incredibles 2, my nostalgia for early childhood will have hit such a peak that I might as well call myself unaffected again.  A-

 

DIRECTED BY

Andrew Stanton

 

VOICES BY

Ellen DeGeneres

Albert Brooks

Hayden Rolence

Ed O'Neill

Kaitlin Olson

Ty Burrell

Diane Keaton

Eugene Levy

Idris Elba

Dominic West

 

RATED

PG

 

RELEASED IN

2016

 

RUNNING TIME

1 Hr., 40 Mins.