The Sterling Standard in Movie Reviews 

Follow Us On:



Fish Story 2

Walt Disney Studios
 97 Minutes
Rated: PG
Directed byAndrew Stanton, Angus MacLane 
Starring: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks
Finding Dory

There have been many memorable movie sidekicks over the years, but they have a mixed record when given their own features. For every Minions, there seem to be multiple movies like Evan Almighty, a film that not even the considerable talents of Steve Carell and Morgan Freeman could turn into anything remotely as successful as its predecessor. So, many people were skeptical when Pixar began producing Finding Dory, a sequel to its 2003 classic, Finding Nemo. After all, Ellen DeGeneres’ Dory was essentially one-joke comic relief based on a personality trait, her short-term memory loss, that seemingly was only good for a few laughs. The skeptics can now breathe easier; Pixar has another winner on their hands.


The title Finding Dory is a bit of a misnomer. In this film, Dory is actually trying to find her parents, after getting a vague memory flash about them and remembering that they lived in Morro Bay. Fortunately, Nemo (Hayden Rolance, replacing the now far-too-old Alexander Gould, who has a bit part himself in the movie) realizes that Morro Bay is in California. It’s also the home of the (fictional) Marine Life Institute, a facility devoted to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of all sorts of aquatic life. So, Dory, Nemo, and Nemo’s reluctant dad, Marlon (Albert Brooks) head across the Pacific Ocean to California. Only after they arrive are they separated, and Dory is brought inside the Institute.


Dory gradually meets her fellow residents at the Institute, including Hank (Ed O’Neill), an octopus that spends as much time out of the water as in it. He agrees to help Dory find her parents, who they assume are on display somewhere in the Institute, if Dory will help get him out of the Institute and off to an aquarium in Cleveland. In the meantime, Marlon and Nemo are trying to get inside the Institute (and here’s where the title comes in) to find Dory.


Finding Dory is primarily an animated action film, with the various forms of marine life making their way to and fro. As such, the action often gets rather juvenile, and adults won’t find this movie as enchanting as Finding Nemo was. Most of the antics center around Hank, who is able to maneuver his body into and out of tight spaces (something octopi actually can do) and change colors to blend into the scenery. The film also comes up with multiple clever bits of business that allow the various fish to maneuver around on dry land through by conveniently finding some most unusual containers of water (the movie stretches science considerably by allowing salt water fish to get by in fresh water).


The worst bit of silliness occurs at the end of the film, when Hank and Dory literally hijack a van filled with fish headed to another facility and try to drive away. You heard that right; an octopus and a tang fish attempt to drive a large commercial vehicle. The gimmick is entertaining for the first 30 seconds or so, but the scene goes on for nearly ten minutes. And, as you might expect, much of the action is staged for the sole purpose of creating eye popping 3D moments in which various objects (usually Dory and her friends) hurtle towards the screen.


Kids will doubtless find this highly entertaining, and, to its credit, Finding Dory, has some educational value as well, although separating reality from Pixar fantasy may require some particularly astute parenting. The Institute is based on the actual Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the Institute’s methodology of displaying marine life temporarily until they can be released into the wild, rather than having them do tricks, provides a valuable conservation lesson. The omnipresent voice of Sigourney Weaver, who provides the loudspeaker narration describing the various exhibits at the Institute also imparts a good bit of information for younger viewers.


What elevates Finding Dory above a host of kiddie action movies is the emotional impact the film has. Admittedly, it’s not at the level of Finding Nemo, but the movie touches on two central themes that will resonate with both young and old. As Dory eventually pieces together, she had a loving set of parents (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy), who spent lots of time teaching the juvenile Dory (Sloane Murray) some valuable life and coping lessons to stay safe despite her short term memory loss. Anyone who thinks there won’t be a tearful reunion scene late in the movie obviously hasn’t seen any Pixar movies.


More generally, Finding Dory provides some life lessons about working with handicaps. It’s not just Dory who has problems in the movie. Hank the octopus only has seven tentacles (a challenge that made animating the film difficult but which, frankly, most people will never notice). Two other friends Dory makes at the Institute also have physical difficulties. Dory is reunited at the Institute with Destiny (Kaitlin Olsen), a nurse shark she knew since childhood who is also quite nearsighted. Destiny’s best friend is Bailey (Ty Burrell), a Beluga whale whose innate echolocation sonar system is temporarily on the fritz.


Naturally, the various characters are able to work through their difficulties and maneuver their way past the obstacles they face in getting through the Institute’s often dangerous physical plant (of course, the danger isn’t all that threatening, since the movie carries a PG rating). Again, while adults will probably find the treatment of handicaps a bit, well, juvenile, the film may cause children to think about a subject they might otherwise avoid and do so in a manner that’s more light than threatening.


The acting ensemble in Finding Dory is first rate, but, first and foremost, this is Ellen DeGeneres’ movie. She brings the right mix of lightness and fear to her character’s emotions at various points and takes what was essentially mere comic relief in the first movie and transforms it into a character who generates the film’s big emotional moments.


All in all, Finding Dory is a solid Pixar effort, but not one of their classics. From a technical standpoint, the animation is first rate, and, as you would expect in a movie about brightly colored fish, the visuals are quite striking. While this one is definitely pitched more towards younger audience members than the best Pixar and Disney films are, adults will be touched as well at some points. Finding Dory won’t make Pixar’s trophy case, but it’s definitely a film worth finding. 

Read other reviews of Finding Dory:


Finding Dory (2016) on IMDb