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Family Movie Review: Finding Dory (PG)

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MPAA Rating: PG          Length: 104 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 8+. This sequel to Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” focuses on the Dory character, who suffers from short-term memory loss; her difficulty remembering her past is initially played for laughs. Some scenes may be frightening for young children, including a memory of a character being swept away by undertow current and a chase scene with a giant squid; a sexually themed joke; some bullying that is meant to be humorous; and themes about loneliness, familial abandonment, and parental separation, which could be stressful for children.

Pixar follows up ‘Finding Nemo’ with ‘Finding Dory,’ which unravels the history of the friendly, memory-impaired Blue Tang. There are moments of great emotional power here, even if the story feels a little derivative.

By Roxana Hadadi

We’re in the age of sequels for Pixar, and the much-loved “Finding Nemo” gets its own follow-up with “Finding Dory,” focusing on the Blue Tang with the sunny disposition and almost no memory. Although not as creative as its predecessor, “Finding Dory” is beautifully animated and emotionally revelatory, tapping into deep questions about loneliness, belonging, and the notion of family.

“Finding Dory” focuses on Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres), the cheery, optimistic fish from “Finding Nemo” who helped the anxious, overprotective Clownfish Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks, of “Concussion”) find his missing son, Nemo (voiced by Hayden Rolence). One year later, Dory, Marlin, and Nemo are living next door to each other, deeply connected to each other’s lives.

Dory’s innocence and joy reach Marlin through his many layers of fear and suspicion of the outside world, but he and Nemo have to constantly remind Dory of what time it is, what to do, and where to go. They’re a family unit of a kind, but there’s uneasiness because of Dory’s persistent confusion about her past and who she is—until one day, when the undertow tide caused by migrating rays sparks a memory in her.

“What if I forget you? Would you ever forget me?” Dory remembers herself saying years ago to her parents, and that memory is the first of many to come flooding back. Inspired to find her family, Dory knows she can’t do it alone, but Marlin isn’t exactly excited to come with her: “We’ve done our ocean travels, that part of our lives is over!”

If Marlin and Nemo don’t come, though, how can Dory keep going in her quest? “Just keep swimming” is a positive ideology, but not necessarily a productive one. So the three set out together to California, where Dory remembers her family living, and where she learns that her parents were at the Marine Life Institute.

“Rescue, rehabilitation, release,” is the Institute’s ideology, as stated by aquarium guide Sigourney Weaver in a long-running gag. But the place is like a labyrinth, and when Dory is separated from Marlin and Nemo, things get even more complicated. How will Dory find her parents on her own, without the ability to remember directions or communicate her objective to strangers? And how will constantly stressed Marlin keep his cool around Nemo, who is more honest with his affection for Dory than Marlin is?

“Finding Dory” has a straightforward storyline that lifts a lot from “Finding Nemo,” but its new locations and new characters add great elements of visual and emotional interest, and the script constantly taps into deep feelings of love and loss. “Do you know what that feels like?” Dory asks Marlin about the sensation of missing someone, and Marlin’s face—as he remembers the death of his wife, which we saw in “Finding Nemo”—is unforgettable.

So is a scene with hermit crabs living in discarded cans, snapping down in fear when a giant, glow-in-the-dark squid reveals itself, and another when the color-changing octopus Hank (voiced by Ed O’Neill, of “Wreck-It Ralph”), carrying Dory in a coffee pot filled with water, slimes his way through the Institute, adapting to a range of shades as he goes. And a scene with dozens of paths of seashells leading to a home is beautifully rendered and utterly heart-breaking.

The end of “Finding Dory,” though, stretches all limits of imagination, even in this Pixar world, and that concluding sequence takes a bit of the character-centered focus and storytelling magic away. Before then, though, “Finding Dory” is a truly touching film, graceful in its exploration of identity, family, and the way they intersect.

Interested in a previously released film? Read our reviews of films already showing in your local theater.

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