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Finding Dory (2016)
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Digital HD Release: 10/25/2016
All Ratings out of
Review by Sydny Long, Posted on 11/2/2016
Pixar, once a studio renowned for its originality, has become a sequel generator. After striking pure gold with its first few films, Pixar started turning single movies into franchises that earned the company billions of dollars in merchandising and home video. There was no need to create original material when a sequel was guaranteed to earn a profit. That isn't to say Pixar's sequels aren't incredible (the Toy Story trilogy in particular demonstrates the company's ability to develop characters and tell mature, engaging stories through sequels instead of simply retelling the same story): it is, however, to say that Pixar seems to have no qualms about its blatant manipulation of nostalgic audiences and toy-loving children through sequels to its beloved classics. The success of Cars 2 and Monsters University (combined with the rather lackluster performance of its last original picture, The Good Dinosaur) appears to have inspired Pixar to mine another box office success out of its most lucrative film, Finding Nemo. Not only is this film the seventh highest grossing animated film of all time, it is one of Pixar's heavyweights, a movie that has managed to survive the passage of time and maintain a high degree of relevancy and renown. Making a sequel to such a well-loved film was inevitable. Does Finding Dory hold up to its predecessor and warrant its own existence? Or is this one film that shouldn't have been found?
The film opens with a ridiculously depressing scene involving a young Dory and her loving parents, whom she will eventually become separated from. The rest of the movie takes place a year after the events of the first film. Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) now lives with Marlin (voiced by Al Brooks) and Nemo (voiced by Hayden Rolence), and regularly accompanies Nemo on his school field trips as a student/teaching assistant. One day, while visiting the ledge where Nemo was captured one year prior, Dory suddenly has a revelation and remembers the place where her family lives. She, Marlin, and Nemo set off to find Dory's parents, only for a squid attack to cut the mission short. After being yelled at by Marlin, Dory continues the search alone and is eventually rescued by staff members at the Marine Life Institute where Dory once lived. Here, Dory meets a colorful cast of characters, including Ed (voiced by Ed O'Neil), a crotchety octopus who wants Dory's rescue tag so that he can be placed in an aquarium display; Destiny (voiced by Kaitlin Olson), a myopic whale shark and Dory's childhood friend; and Bailey (voiced by Ty Burrell), a neurotic beluga whale. With their help, Dory travels across the institute in search of her parents and comes to realize that even though her short term memory loss might hinder her, her friends and family will always be there to help her find her way home.
Considering this film is based almost entirely on a throwaway line from the first movie (which, for whatever reason, is spliced into this film in an awkward cutaway), it has a surprisingly strong emotional core. Instead of the parent searching for the child, Finding Dory focuses on the child searching for the parents and the end result is a moving exploration of Dory's backstory and how influential her parents were in shaping her personality. Unlike Finding Nemo, where the audience knew the child character would be reunited with his father, there is a degree of uncertainty in Finding Dory that keeps the audience riveted. We are never entirely confident that Dory will find her parents and the more effort she expends searching for them, the more desperate we are for her to find them. While I don't want to spoil anything, the resolution to this central conflict is incredibly sweet and poignant, pairing stirring visuals with a sweeping score and terrific voice-acting from the always emotive Ellen DeGeneres.
As for the rest of the movie, it's a bit of a mixed bag. The first half is terrific: Dory is in top comedic and emotional form, the new characters are endearing, the jokes are solid (there's two running gags about Sigourney Weaver and a wall-eyed bird that always get a laugh). Making Marlin and Nemo secondary characters might seem a bit reckless given their importance in the franchise, but their more lighthearted subplot turns out to be a welcome respite from the melancholy Dory scenes. The aquarium setting itself is the best character of all, utilizing every square inch of its massive, sunny self to tell a visually stunning story. For roughly fifty minutes, this is Pixar at its absolute best.
Then things go off the rails--literally. The finale entails an octopus driving a truck, misunderstandings, panic attacks, birds flying fish around in buckets, and traffic pile-ups. It isn't necessarily disastrous, but it does detract from the overall experience of the movie. Pixar has never really been able to end a movie (even the uncharacteristically short Toy Story has one ending too many), but Finding Dory brings new meaning to the word "interminable". The worst part is that this messy finale occurs shortly after the film's best scene, which should have been the one and only climax. By allowing the movie to keep vomiting up scene after scene after scene, the movie reduces that scene's emotional clout and makes us actively long for the end credits.
Aside from the abominable ending, Finding Dory is another success in a long string of successes for Pixar. The animation is, as always, spellbinding: the new technology utilized for the settings in The Good Dinosaur renders the ocean with such breathtaking detail that it's sometimes hard to focus on the action. Every shot of water is perfectly animated, with each fleck of debris and ray of light realized and captured. The character designs are creative (especially Hank, who expresses himself with his heavily-lidded eyes and animated tentacles in the absence of a mouth), the writing is relatively strong (with the exception of the finale, of course), and the atmosphere is one of warmth and love. If you liked Finding Nemo, then start searching for Finding Dory--you won't be disappointed.
Finding Dory makes echo location look like a superpower on Digital HD courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. While we normally review physical medium at this website, this is our first critique of a digital download. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 for this 1080p HD download. (This is my first time seeing the film, so I must question that aspect ratio.) Keep in mind, performance may vary based on your internet/WiFi system. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source materials. The colors look good, but I was expecting much more vibrant tones based on what I remember from Finding Nemo. The image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good, with the picture looking soft on just a handful of occasions. The depth is notable, even in this 2D version. We are treated to a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. The track delivers clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo and surround sound effects are notable, as the mix treats us to the various sounds from the undersea world. The effects are nicely detailed at times, producing distinct sounds. The subwoofer kicks in during the action sequences, and while it's not wall-shaking, it's effective.
The Digital HD release of Finding Dory contains a slew of extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY featuring Director Andrew Stanton, Co-Director Angus MacLane, and Producer Lindsey Collins. This is followed by nine DELETED SCENES, one of which -- "Tank Gang" -- is an exclusive to this release. Some of these are fully animated, while others are in simple black-and-white pencil form. "Marine Life Interviews" (2 minutes) offers fake interviews with several of the characters. "Piper" (6 minutes) is the animated short which accompanied Finding Dory in theaters. It has an incredibly cute story and great animation, especially with the sand. "Deep in the Kelp" (3 minutes) has Disney Channel actress Jenny Ortega showing how the animators observed real aquatic creatures as research for the characters. "Skating & Sketching with Jason Deamer" (4 minutes) has the character illustrator explaining his craft, demonstrating his art style, and doing some skateboarding. "Animation & Acting" (7 minutes) takes us into the recording studio and allows us to see the actors performing their lines. We then see how the dialogue is linked to the animation. "Rough Day on the Reef" (1 minute) offers a reel of animation errors. The animation staff explains how difficult it was to illustrate all of Hank's complicated movements in "The Octopus that Nearly Broke Pixar" (9 minutes). "What Were We Talking About?" (4 minutes) has the creative staff discussing the challenge of having a move where the main character can't remember things. "Creature Features" (3 minutes) has the voice actors sharing real-life facts about sea creatures. "Casual Carpool" (4 minutes) is a James Corden rip-off featuring Stanton, Brooks, Burrell, and Levy, riding to work. There is no singing. "Dory's Theme" (5 minutes) allows us into the studio to explore to music from the film, along with Tom Newman and Will Bernstein. "Stingrays" (1 minute) is simply a quick shot of stingrays swimming by. "Hidden Secrets of Finding Dory" (3 minutes) shows off various Pixar Easter Eggs hidden in the film. "Finding Nemo As Told by Emoji" (3 minutes) actually retells the movie as if seen in text form. Weird. "Sea Grass" (1 minute) is more random footage, this time showing the ocean floor. "Swim to the Surface" is a 6-minute continuous shot of the camera slowly rising to the surface. "Open Ocean" (1 minute) gives us a shot containing a plethora of fish. "Fish Schticks" (4 minutes) is a reel of quick jokes featuring the characters from the film. The extras are rounded out by four TRAILERS for the film, "U.S. Trailer", "Japan Trailer", "Russia Trailer", "Spain Trailer". As noted above, I've never experienced an HD download like this before, so I don't know if getting this many extras is common. I can say that I was impressed that this much extra material is included. It certainly increases the value of the purchase.
Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long