Friendly fish goes in search of her par­ents

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - South Broward - - MOVIES - By Michael Phillips

Child­hood and, in fact, the very act of be­ing hu­man in­volves a cer­tain level of lone­li­ness. The great news is, you can make money off it. For close to 80 years, if you go by Dis­ney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” mak­ing his­tory in 1937, all sorts and achieve­ment lev­els of fea­ture an­i­ma­tion have preyed upon the fears, in­se­cu­ri­ties and iso­lat­ing cir­cum­stances of grow­ing up. The best Pixar fea­tures, like those pre- and post-dig­i­tal from Pixar’s par­ent com­pany, Dis­ney, have ex­ploited that lone­li­ness bril­liantly, and the lesser Pixars have tried to do the same.

“Find­ing Dory,” the sat­is­fy­ing fol­low-up to the 2003 smash “Find­ing Nemo,” am­pli­fies the defin­ing char­ac­ter­is­tic — short-term mem­ory loss — of the blue tang fish voiced, then and now, with sub­tle warmth and unerring comic tim­ing by Ellen DeGeneres.

What be­gan as comic gold, with a del­i­cate, bit­ter­sweet un­der­cur­rent, is now a sen­si­tively han­dled dis­abil­ity. Flash­backs to Dory’s child­hood (Eu­gene Levy and Di­ane Keaton voice Dory’s par­ents) re­veal her barely re­called fam­ily life as a truly en­vi­able and lov­ing one. “Find­ing Dory,” which more ac­cu­rately would be ti­tled “Nemo and Mar­lin MPAA rating: PG (for mild thematic el­e­ments) Run­ning time: 1:43 Opens: Thurs­day evening Help Dory Find Her Folks,” man­ages to raise its newly cen­tral char­ac­ter’s emo­tional stakes with­out wip­ing out the com­edy al­to­gether.

If the movie’s good, not great, well, there it is. This would be an apt time to re­mem­ber Pixar’s track record when it comes to pro­vid­ing stock­hold­er­friendly se­quels to its prop­er­ties. Be­sides “Toy Story 2” and, to a lesser de­gree, “3,” “Find­ing Dory” is the only Pixar se­quel to quali- tatively jus­tify its ex­is­tence as a movie. “Cars 2” and “Mon­sters Uni­ver­sity” are best con­sid­ered karmic pay­back for the glo­ri­ous “Rata­touille,” “WALL-E” and “Up” get­ting made in the first place.

“Find­ing Dory” takes place a year af­ter “Find­ing Nemo.” Dory fin-twists, gen­tly, Mar­lin (Al­bert Brooks) and Nemo (Hay­den Ro­lence) into aid­ing her in her search for the par­ents she only pe­ri­od­i­cally re­calls. The quest takes the trio to the coast of Cal­i­for­nia and the Ma­rine Life In­sti­tute, based vis­ually on the Mon­terey Bay Aquar­ium.

There, Dory meets her new­est com­rades. They in­clude the mis­an­thropic but re­deemable “sep­to­pus” (oc­to­pus mi­nus one ten­ta­cle) named Hank, voiced by Ed O’Neill, whose mis­sion in life is not to leave cap­tiv­ity, but to stay in it. Bel­uga whale Bai­ley (Ty Bur­rell) and whale shark Des­tiny (Kaitlin Ol­son) join forces, and they’re pleas­ant comic com­pany.

Andrew Stan­ton codi­rected, with An­gus MacLane, and co-wrote, with Vic­to­ria Strouse. The visual per­son­al­ity of the movie is fan­tas­ti­cally vivid and bright, the story it­self less so. I think Stan­ton and com­pany erred in con­fin­ing so much of the ac­tion to the ma­rine in­sti­tute and on dry land. There’s a typ­i­cally com­plex and in­ven­tive ac­tion cli­max for a Pixar project. The open ocean is the re­ward for Dory, along with re­unit­ing with her par­ents, and I felt slightly jerked around in get­ting to the re­ward part.

Still, and this is a big “still”: We’re a long way from the con­trivances of a “Cars 2” or “Mon­sters Uni­ver­sity.” Will we ever again hit the Pixar heights of the early 21st cen­tury? Who knows. And tech­ni­cally it’s still early in the cen­tury. Michael Phillips is a Tri­bune News­pa­pers critic.

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