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‘FINDING DORY’ IN NEMO’S WAKE

I can’t think of another film that has generated so much good will from audiences who haven’t seen it yet as Finding Dory. That’s a tribute to the enduring legacy of its predecessor, Finding Nemo, and the endearing character of Dory, the fish with short-term memory loss voiced by Ellen DeGeneres. I’m happy to say that Pixar and Nemo’s writer-director Andrew Stanton haven’t let moviegoers down. It isn’t quite on a par with the earlier film but then, few sequels are.

Like every Pixar creation, this one relies on several key elements: an immersive visual environment (whether you see it in 3-D or not), a simple story, and colorful characters. The look of the movie is exquisite, an underwater seascape that feels natural and uncommonly appealing. The characters are likable and the story is about as simple as it could be: Dory wants to see her family again. Having been through the wrenching experience of separation, Marlin (Albert Brooks) and his son Nemo (Hayden Rolence) want to help her in every way they can.

finding Dory-Ed O-Neill-Ellen DeGeneres

(Courtesy of Disney / Pixar)

The biggest difference between this and the 2003 movie is that Dory is experiencing flashbacks that jog her addled memory. They provide her with clues to her past and amplify her reasons for wanting to be reunited with her mom and dad.

Stanton, co-writer Victoria Strouse, and co-director Angus MacLane have augmented their basic story with entertaining detours and an amusing new character named Hank, a shape-shifting octopus (voiced by Ed O’Neill) who becomes Dory’s unlikely ally.

The harshest criticism I can level at this genial film is that it feels like a retread of Finding Nemo. Like many sequels, it makes an effort to generate the same emotions as the first picture but can’t quite pull it off. Still, Finding Dory is easy-to-take and often charming. Kids and adults who are young at heart will certainly have a good time.

Finding Dory is preceded by a wonderful short subject called Piper. Talk about charm! Bravo to Disney and Pixar for continuing to encourage new talent—and give moviegoers a welcome bonus—through the medium of shorts.

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Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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