A ‘Finding Dory’ Review From A ‘Finding Nemo’ Superfan

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[Note: This review will be free of major Finding Dory spoilers. But it will contain Finding Nemo spoilers.]

 

I’m probably in the top one percentile of Finding Nemo fans. Beyond reason, I love that movie. I cried five times watching it the first time.  I cried when Nigel tells Nemo his dad is braving the thing he fears the most–the ocean–in search of him. I cried when Marlin gives up momentarily while in the whale. I cried when Marlin asks Crush how old he is. I cried when Marlin holds Nemo after finally finding him and it flashes back to the first time he held him. I cried at the very end. Heck, I cried after the opening title sequence. No joke! How many times is that? More than five? I can’t even count them. I’m pretty sure I cried more in this movie than all others in my life combined.

The movie hits every mark perfectly to me. Not a wasted moment or word of dialogue. The backstory for why Marlin is the way he is grips me emotionally from the very beginning. It has an unforgettable cast of characters Marlin meets on his journey, most notably Crush and Bruce the shark. Dory could have easily been super annoying, but she was far too endearing, what with her mess ups of Nemo’s name–”Not much fun for little Harpo.” I adore the subplot of Nemo bonding with the other fish in the aquarium, especially Gill. And the original score–Wow!  Not even 90 seconds total and its slow, melodic piano music causes me to run a gamut of emotions. Now I’m crying again!

So I’d be lying if I didn’t say I wanted this sequel to awesome. Of course I had my doubts. My favorite movies have had bad sequels (Dumb and Dumber, Gremlins), but many have had exceptional sequels (Rocky, Karate Kid). I honestly think both Dreamworks and Pixar have proven that making a good sequel to a CGI family film is easier than other genres. And quite a few franchises (too many to list, but I will say Shrek 2 is probably one of my 50 favorite movies ever) would be the evidence.

And this one is no different. I didn’t like it quite as much as Nemo. I’ll get that out of the way immediately. But this one is not a significant step down. And seeing how I just described Nemo as I did, that leaves Finding Dory as an incredibly well done movie.

They took the right approach for the sequel: focusing on Dory. She is so lovable, relatable and funny that she can carry a movie. And while they kept the title the same, the major plot angle is different. Like Nemo, it’s inspirational in a way millions of people can relate to in real life. To me, nothing is quite as endearing as a father sacrificing everything to find his son (because I have two incredible parents), but the sequel plot comes close. In fact, I missed some of the major pay off moments because I was trying to see this movie through the same lens as the last one.  But this one isn’t about ‘finding’ (as in something lost) as much as it is discovering, making this a beautifully titled move. This movie is about Dory herself, not what she is trying to do. Minor spoiler: We get to see Dory as a small child and it may be the cutest, most adorable, most precious thing I’ve ever seen in a movie. Baby Dory was cuter than Sesame Street Elmo and Jonthan Lipnicki in Jerry Maguire put together.

I really liked the cast of supporting characters we encounter, but not quite as much as those from the original. However, the sea animal “Hank,” voiced by Ed O’Neil, is probably my favorite supporting character in the two movies combined.   He is very unique. He’s not loud like Bruce or cool like Crush or tough like Gill, but he adds more to this movie than any of them did in the original. He is more understated and less boisterous and that fits nicely with his purpose. The other major secondary characters are fun, but Hank steals the show at times.

The climactic scene borders on being too outrageous, yet it is so funny I ended up enjoying it very much. The final scene felt a bit forced and tagged on to me. They were going for a final moment of poignancy, but it dragged a bit and it ended a little awkwardly. But this is a minor complaint in otherwise exceptional story-telling.

This movie has all the heart of the original just in different form. It seems the hardest part of making a sequel is making people remember what they liked about the original but not repeating it in too many ways. In that sense, this sequel is among the best I’ve seen. I want to watch it again and focus harder on the things the movie is about the next time. I don’t know that I’ll ever enjoy a CGI family film the way I did Nemo, but Dory comes close.  I enthusiastically recommend it.  If you loved Dory in the first one, you may like this one better. But either way, Andrew Stanton has added an epic two-part story to American family film canon.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

 

(Let us know what you thought of it in the comment section below.)

Gowdy Cannon

I am the pastor of the bilingual ministry of Northwest Community Church in Chicago. Our church is intentional in trying to bring English and Spanish speakers together in worship and community. My wife, Kayla, and I have been married two years. I teach ESL (English as a Second Language) classes to adult immigrants in my community. I am, at times, a student at Moody Theological Seminary in Chicago. I love The USC (the real one in SC, not the other one in CA), Seinfeld, John 3:30, Chic-Fil-A, Dumb and Dumber, the book of Job, preaching and teaching, and arguing about sports.

13 thoughts on “A ‘Finding Dory’ Review From A ‘Finding Nemo’ Superfan

  • June 17, 2016 at 10:46 am
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    Finding Nemo is a treasure. A beautiful film in all aspects. I hope I love the sequel that much though I am sure that will prove to be difficult. Your review has me feeling more hopeful though.

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  • June 17, 2016 at 1:02 pm
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    I honestly think it comes down to how much you like Dory. That’s simplistic since she’s the title character but I think anyone who loved her the first time will love her again as the focal point. She was just about as prominent in the the first one as Marlin so I don’t it’s an issue of having ‘too much’ of her. But if a person found her even a little annoying the first go round, this will probably not appeal to them.

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  • June 26, 2016 at 9:23 am
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    I saw it with my family on Saturday. Everyone seemed to really enjoy it. A few thoughts:

    1. Baby Dory is the cutest thing ever. It was almost unfair how cute she was.

    2. I agree that the climactic scene was almost too much, but it did make me laugh so I guess mission accomplished. The climax in Nemo is a much more dramatic and emotional scene – the fish all stuck in a net together – so they went a different direction for this one.

    3. The music was good but it didn’t blow me away like the music of Nemo.

    4. Hank was great, but so were the other new characters.

    Reply
  • June 26, 2016 at 10:38 am
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    I really agree with all of that. I Learned something about writing movie reviews and writing with a deadline this time and hope to avoid some of the same pitfalls next time (although this is such a not serious piece of writing, I”m not overly concerned about it). After we posted this and people started asking questions I thought of some of these things: The music was less obvious and moving (all the times I cried watching Nemo were when the original score was playing; it surely had an impact emotionally), the other characters other than Hank were worth mentioning, especially the sea lions and the duck, etc.

    I think I enjoyed the climax to Nemo more because it was dramatic instead of outrageous. But laughing is nearly always a good thing.

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  • June 27, 2016 at 11:11 am
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    I thought the music in Dory was good, but Nemo’s music is about as good as it gets.

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    • June 27, 2016 at 2:50 pm
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      I need to pay more attention to it next time. I don’t recall it. I know there was a very brief tribute to the first one’s score late in the movie.

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      • June 27, 2016 at 3:00 pm
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        Yeah, they definitely replay the original theme a few times, but the impact of the score in the sequel is not as great as in the original film. I am a music guy. If a movie has music that hits me emotionally, I will overlook a lot of other flaws. (Not that this film is full of flaws.) I enjoyed Dory a lot, but I didn’t find myself completely won over the first time and some of that is probably due to not connecting to the film through the music like I did with Nemo.

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  • June 28, 2016 at 5:31 pm
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    Saw it with a lot of family this afternoon. Loved it. I think I even liked it more than the first one. I will have to watch it again to see if repeated viewings change that opinion. I have to admit, however, that I don’t place the first one on quite as high a plane as you guys.

    My favorite characters were the whales. They really stole the show to me. Hope they are in it more if there is yet another “Finding” in our future.

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    • June 29, 2016 at 9:04 am
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      I really liked the whales too.

      As much as I liked both “Finding” films, I hope this is it. I don’t see another story worth telling, thematically speaking.

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  • June 29, 2016 at 9:06 am
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    I agree with Phill. I don’t see another storyline or character worth exploring.

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    • June 29, 2016 at 9:11 am
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      The only character that we have met that could warrant more exploration is Hank, but do audiences like Hank enough for a whole film devoted to him?

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  • June 29, 2016 at 9:37 am
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    Good question. Not to cop out, but I have no idea. I loved him but I’m not a good measuring stick. I think I can say with confidence that any movie they would attempt in theory would be a huge gamble compared to Dory, who really helped make the first one elite to me.

    Reply
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