Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: Finding Dory

Colorful aquatic cuteness returns in “Finding Dory,” the sequel to the 2003 Pixar animated smash hit “Finding Nemo.”

It’s hard to capture lightning in a bottle twice, and while “Finding Dory” may not elicit the sense of awe and wonder of the grand ocean journey from the first film, the big heart and sense of great adventure into the unknown are very much there.

As the title suggests, Dory (voice of Ellen DeGeneres) returns and this time it’s her story. Much like in “Nemo,” there is a prologue in which we see young Dory (voice of Sloane Murray) being taught by her parents Charlie (voice of Eugene Levy) and Jenny (voice of Diane Keaton) how to deal with her short term memory loss. Next thing we know, she’s swimming alone in the ocean, looking for her parents. Years go by, she meets Marlin (voice of Albert Brooks), and we’re caught up to speed to present day. After the events of “Finding Nemo,” Dory, Marlin, and Nemo (voice of Hayden Rolence) all live together in the Great Barrier Reef as one big, happy family.

That is, until Dory begins to remember some events from her past and how she got separated from her parents. This compels her to set out on an adventure to reunite with them.

Story structure-wise, this is a brilliant move by the writers—the two main ones being Andrew Stanton (who also co-directed and is the voice of Crush the turtle) and Victoria Strouse. They took something that was a funny gimmick from a side character in the first movie, i.e., Dory’s short term memory loss, and made it into an integral part of the story telling. As the movie progresses, Dory remembers more events from her past. As things become clearer for Dory, more revelations about where she comes from are made, and the story unfolds and begins to make sense. The story of “Finding Dory” truly hinges on Dory remembering the past so she knows where to go next.

Marlin and Nemo follow Dory across the ocean, but they get separated from her shortly after they all wind up at a Marine Life Institute across the Pacific. Marlin and Nemo have their own sub-story to find Dory and they befriend a pair of sea lions named Fluke (voice of Idris Elba) and Rudder (voice of Dominic West) who were released by the Institute and now hang out on a nearby rock. Dory makes a new friend inside the Institute, a seven-legged octopus named Hank (voice of Ed O'Neill, perfectly cast for this role). He agrees to help Dory find her parents in exchange for Dory’s recently acquired tag for passage to an aquarium in Cleveland.

Dory, Nemo, and Marlin all get into close scrapes on their adventures in and around the Institute, but nothing is ever too scary. Stanton and co-director Angus MacLane keep things kid-friendly, light, and fun, and I honestly think that the PG rating is too strong. “Finding Dory” is lighter than the G-rated “Finding Nemo,” which arguably had much darker undertones. This is a sweet, colorfully animated, well-told adventure comedy that is very much a worthy sequel to its predecessor. Buy it on Amazon: Finding Dory - BD Combo Pack (2BD + DVD + Digital HD) [Blu-ray].

More New Releases: “Cardboard Boxer,” about a group of rich people who gather together homeless people and have them fight each other, starring Thomas Haden Church and Terrence Howard; “Time After Time,” exciting and imaginative movie from 1979 in which H.G. Wells pursues Jack the Ripper from 1888 London to twentieth century San Francisco, starring Malcolm McDowell, David Warner, and Mary Steenburgen; “Phenomena,” 1985 skin-crawler from Dario Argento starring Jennifer Connelly as a young girl with the psychic ability to control insects, also starring Donald Pleasence and one really vengeful chimpanzee in one of my personal all-time favorite horror movie endings; and “Punch-Drunk Love,” fantastic Adam Sandler-Paul Thomas Anderson collaboration about a downtrodden, insecure, quick-tempered man who becomes emboldened and takes control of his life after falling in love.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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