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MOVIES: Finding Dory - Review

Finding Nemo is widely considered to be one of Pixar's best animated efforts, an endearing and emotional tale about a father's relationship with his son that hits all the right notes, anchored by a handful of fabulous supporting characters. Chief among those is Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a blue tang who suffers from short-term memory loss and provides many of the film's laughs, and 13 years after audiences first fell in love with her, she's back on the big screen this weekend.

While the original film centered around Marlin (Albert Brooks) and his quest to be reunited with his son, this time it's Dory who finds herself on a journey to locate her family. Besides brief flashes of her parents (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy), she doesn't have much to go on, but Dory's motto of "just keep swimming" (we learn the origin of that phrase here) leads her to a marine life rehabilitation center on the California coast. This is where Dory was born, and she's convinced her parents must be in there somewhere.

To track them down, she'll need all the help she can get, and that's where Finding Dory introduces us to a host of new characters that are impossible not to fall on love with. Kaitlin Olsen is adorable as Destiny, a near-sighted whale shark who can't seem to stop bumping into things, while Modern Family's Ty Burrell pops up as Bailey, a beluga whale whose echolocation doesn't seem to function correctly. But the true scene-stealer is Hank (Ed O'Neill), a cantankerous octopus with a missing tentacle, an impressive camouflage ability, and a desire to live out the rest of his days in solitude at a Cleveland aquarium.

Finding Dory is a Pixar film through and through, so audiences should bring plenty of tissues and expect to have their heartstrings tugged more than a few times, but don't expect it to be as devastating as last year's Inside Out - it's far too funny to let its viewers wallow in sadness for too long. DeGeneres does most of the emotional heavy lifting here, and despite turning in another brilliant performance - not to mention some great work from a slightly underutilized Brooks - the film isn't quite as strong as its predecessor.

That's not to say that Finding Dory can't justify its existence - on the contrary, it's the sort of sequel that actually makes sense, born not from a studio's desire to cash in on franchise recognition or capitalize on the latest trends, but from director Andrew Stanton's desire to revisit the world he brought to life 13 years ago. Pixar is taking us back to the ocean because Stanton and his co-director Angus MacLane truly believed Dory's tale deserved to be told, and I couldn't agree more - their passion for these characters and their world comes through in every frame. Finding Dory is charming, hilarious and incredibly touching, and serves as a perfect bookend to the original film.

About the Author - Brent Hankins
Brent Hankins is a film critic and blogger with 5 years of experience. He is a charter member of the Phoenix Critics Circle, the founder of NerdRepository.com, and host of the Drinks and Discourse podcast.
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