I suppose when you go to see an animated movie at 11:15 AM on a Sunday during a weekend when it’s breaking box office records, you should have certain expectations. I of course knew we would be in a theatre full of children. Naturally, these being children you can’t expect them to be completely silent and behaved for the entire duration of the movie. I mean, you hope for it but you know it’s likely never going to happen. Even still, I don’t think I was fully prepared for the experience of watching Finding Dory this morning.
Now, I’m not a parent so there’s always some hesitation in commenting on anything other parents are doing. However, I’d like to believe that most people would agree with me that bringing your 2-year-old daughter to a movie she clearly doesn’t give a shit about (the parents spent most of the movie going “look! Fish! Look at the fish!” in an attempt to calm her down) and allowing her to scream, yell and cry the whole movie is maybe not the best thing. I have to believe that many parents who take their young children to the movie theatre, do so knowing full well they may spend a great deal of the running time out in the lobby or in the bathroom. These parents were determined not to go anywhere, figuring that if they just made their shushes louder and longer, they will eventually work. They did not. They also allowed their other child (slightly older) to run into the aisle, sit down, and repeatedly stamp his feet over and over. This isn’t your god damn living room! I’m sorry your children are disrupting your movie going experience, but they are also ruining it for the hundreds of other people in here! No other child is doing this! They at least had some level of self awareness as they booked it out of there the moment the credits started to roll, whispering “We should go.” I’m choosing to believe their hasty exit was to get ahead of any comments the people around them may have had, because there was no hiding the frustration they were feeling.
Honestly, I feel like I can’t even give this movie a proper review until I see it a second time at home because there are literally entire scenes where I couldn’t hear any dialogue. There’s a plot advancing scene involving a giant clam where I didn’t hear anything anyone said, unless I was mishearing and all their words were just “EEEEEEEEEEEE” being yelled directly behind me. A full scene where I have no clue what happened. I would say I took in 90 to 95% of the movie so I still feel confident that I can share my thoughts, as much as I just want this review to turn into a scathing review of other people’s children.
Finding Dory picks up a year after the events of the first movie, with Dory living alongside Nemo and his father Marlin. Still suffering from short-term memory loss, Dory suddenly begins having flashes back to her childhood and her separation from her mom and dad. Determined to find them, she sets out to figure out the missing pieces of her childhood and reunite with her parents.
While the plot doesn’t hit the same emotional highs as Finding Nemo, there are some tear worthy moments as we see adorable baby Dory and the way her parents handled her memory loss while she was growing up. It’s adorable and heart-breaking, leading to a very satisfying emotional pay off that I’m not going to delve into here. Dory’s condition is handled exceptionally well. It’s not simply the punchline for jokes (though it is that), as the movie takes time to show just how difficult it can be living with such a condition, and how it still doesn’t hold her back in any way.
Ellen Degeneres is of course fantastic as the voice of Dory, taking a character who could be irritating in the wrong hands and making her impossible not to root for. She’s spirited, optimistic and an absolute joy to watch. Beyond that, it’s staggering just how many celebrities we have in this thing. I won’t list them all but I will throw a special shout-out to Ed O’Neill, who steals every single scene as Hank, an octopus whose only goal in life is to get to Cleveland. Also on board you have Ty Burrell, Kaitlin Olson, Bill Hader, Kate McKinnon, Eugene Levy, Diane Keaton, Idris Elba and probably a whole lot more that I’m forgetting. It’s a stellar voice cast across the board, but one that doesn’t draw too much attention to all the famous people they got.
Something else that struck me as interesting, and this isn’t a totally new concept in Pixar movies, is that there is not an antagonist in this movie. Nobody is actively trying to stop Dory on her journey to find her parents. In fact, everyone she meets along the way is both encouraging and helpful, often willing to jump in and offer direct assistance. I can only think of one sequence where they are in danger as the result of another creature. This one is about the quest, and there’s something refreshing about that.
I did have concerns early on in the movie that they were going to rely a little too heavily to call backs from the first movie. Marlin has several lines that directly reference the events of Finding Nemo, and they bring in a few characters (such as Crush, the stoned surfer turtles) from the previous film that add little other than “yo you all remember this guy right?!” Thankfully this doesn’t last longer than the first act and eventually we are introduced to a host of new characters that may not reach the heights of Nemo (seriously, do you remember how amazing those seagulls were?), but are definitely memorable in their own right.
Being a Pixar movie, the whole thing is naturally gorgeous to look at. You could take a still image from any part of this movie and hang it up on your wall. The amount of detail in each scene is remarkable. This also seems like a good time to highlight Piper, the short that precedes the actual movie. A simple story of a bird scared of the tide, the animation is breath-taking, to the point where many in the audience did not immediately realize what we were saying wasn’t live action. The short is also adorable and, like Finding Dory itself, delivers an important message without beating you over the head with it.
While I may not have been able to take in the entire movie, I think it speaks volumes to Finding Dory’s quality that I was able to highly enjoy it in spite of the environment I was trying to watch it in. Many people were concerned when Pixar announced this one, and while I can’t say it hits the level as Finding Nemo, it is a worthy sequel and one I can’t wait to revisit without the incessant screaming of a toddler piercing my ear drums at all turns.