Sunday, June 19, 2016

Finding Dory

Come baaaaacck!
My life was so incredibly different in 2003 when Finding Nemo came out. (Everyone's was, right? It was THIRTEEN YEARS ago!!!) I got married a month after its debut, and having kids was the furthest thing from my mind. But, as with all Pixar movies (and, IMHO, most animated Disney movies in general), you didn't need to be a parent to enjoy or be moved by the film about a dad clownfish swimming across the ocean in search of his lost son. (And, as longtime readers of this blog know, not having any kids didn't stop me from going to EPCOT (by myself) solely to experience the Nemo ride. Or going to Disney World/Land several times since, by myself. But I digress.)

I mention all of this because I didn't think it would ever be possible for me to love films like Finding Nemo, Toy Story or Cars more than I already did. I was wrong. Once my four-and-a-half-year-old son got into these movies, a whole new dimension came into play. One of ownership, one of feeling personally vested (both emotionally and financially because of ALL THE TOYS), one of protectiveness as he came to cherish the characters as much as I did, and one of feeling truly petrified that something could one day ruin these franchises. (DAMN YOU, CARS 2!!!) When we took our son to Disneyland this year and last year and got a huge kick out of the "Turtle Talk with Crush" attraction (seriously, it's the best) and the Finding Nemo submarine ride, the stakes grew that much higher. Finding Dory HAD to be good. It just had to be.

And it is! Praise Poseidon! (Or King Triton, perhaps?)

Yes, it is like The Force Awakens in the sense that the plot is almost completely recycled. You know what I say to that? WHO CARES. I don't see these movies for the plot, I see them for the gorgeous animation and for the clever adult humor sprinkled in alongside more obvious jokes for the kiddies. I see them because I know there will be a positive moral to the story (Dory is actually superior to Nemo here). I see them because I know I will feel the warm fuzzies at the end. And because I don't recall a time in my forty-plus years where feeling the warm fuzzies was ever a bad thing.

So, yep, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), the short-term-memory-impaired regal tang, gets lost in a few different ways. Most revolve around a search for her family, who she starts remembering bits and pieces about via flashbacks. Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Illinois native Hayden Rolence, represent!) are back, as are a couple of other beloved characters like Squirt and Crush—though I wish those two had been in it much more, thanks to my reignited love of Crush after seeing his Disneyland show.

There's memorable marine-life humor (yes, that's a thing)—much like we learned how seagulls are actually shouting "Mine!" in Nemo, we find out why sea lions make their barking noises in Dory. You'll squirm through a sequence involving an aquarium's "touch pool." You'll sniffle at the opening montage and additional flashbacks featuring tiny bug-eyed Dory.

Hank the tank! Hank the tank! (Old School humor)
And while there are other new characters who are cute and make their own mark on the film, you'll likely be most impressed by Hank (Ed O'Neill, a perfect choice), a cranky red octopus (minus one tentacle) who can camouflage himself and begrudgingly agrees to help Dory because there's something in it for him. The scenes where he changes colors are amazing. And overall he's just hilarious. I don't think young kids will really "get" him as much as adults will, though. Nevertheless, he's the film's standout character.

Speaking of young kids, parents should know that there is one scene that's a little intense (spoiler alert for the rest of this paragraph): Nemo, Marlin and Dory are chased by a pretty scary squid, and at one point the squid comes close to eating Nemo. They of course get away, so you could always just TELL your kids this before they see the movie so they're not worried. That's what I did, and my son is at the film with his dad for a Father's Day treat as I type this.

Two non-spoilery highlights involve Sigourney Weaver and a slo-mo scene set to Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World," which was so crazy I can't believe the team (co-director/co-writer extraordinaire Andrew Stanton (who also voices Crush (!), co-director Angus MacLane and co-writer Victoria Strouse) not only thought of it in the first place, but then also pulled it off so magnificently.

So in summary: PHEW. No one's affection for or memories of Finding Nemo are going to be destroyed by this sequel. It was great to check in on the old gang again, and even better to meet some new insta-classic characters. Now can Cars 3 PLEASE not be horrible... ?

(p.s. Make sure you stay through ALL of the credits.)

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