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Winsor McCay -- The Master Edition

A new DVD offers an opportunity to see films by a master of animation —Andrea Birgers (DVD review...)

Gertie the Dinosaur, born of Winsor McCay

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Finding Dory flounders.

Just Keep Swimming

Hey, everybody! Remember me? I'm Dory.
Hey, everybody! Remember me? I’m Dory.

Sure. A lot of it is relative. Finding Dory is better than the typical animated fare coming out of Fox studios, but it’s still a victim of Pixar’s own successful formula. This one simply doesn’t rank with the best of Pixar and it falls somewhere in the mix of the weaker entries (Cars 2 most notably).

The problem here is Finding Dory lacks the sophisticated, cross-generational appeal of Pixar’s best. On the heels of The Good Dinosaur, Finding Dory also has to contend with the wake of last summer’s out-of-the-park Pixar release, Inside Out (and, for that matter, Walt Disney Animation Studio’s Zootopia — only a couple months ago — is still fresh in mind as an A-lister).

It has its charms, no doubt, but the storytelling in this one skews decidedly younger than top-tier animated fare.

Just Keep Swimming

Dory (Ellen DeGeneres, host of the eponymous TV talker), that adorable regal blue tang fish with short-term memory issues, is now on a quest to get back to her own parents after helping reunite Nemo with his father, Marlin (Albert Brooks, The Little Prince).

Her journey will take her all the way across the ocean to California’s Morro Bay.

There are moments of inspiration and swaths of colorful animation. A highlight is the introduction of Hank (Ed O’Neill, Wreck-It Ralph), an octopus with three hearts and seven tentacles (a septapus, as Dory duly notes). Hank can blend in with his surroundings and that makes for some fun moments of camouflage.

For Hank, tired of hanging out in the lab, he’s eager to get tagged — an indicator he’s fit to join the friendly confines of the aquarium in Cleveland. Dory, swept into the mix of the Morro Bay lab following a series of (typically) unfortunate incidents, has been given a clean bill of health and tagged. But she wants to stay in order to find her parents. A perfect match is formed as Hank and Dory team up, with Hank being promised Dory’s tag in return for his help.

Just Keep Swimming

There are fitting environmental messages tucked into the action. Some are fairly subtle, such as the sad but oddly cute scene in which Dory swims around with a soda six-pack plastic strap wrapped around her fins.

But in terms of character messaging, the movie falls a bit flat. Sure, Dory has that memory problem, but she still manages to make things happen. And that’s the gist of the pseudo-empowering and inspiring angle this movie tries to pursue.

All of the action ends “cute” with a flurry of activity involving a semi full of aquatic life. Nature’s troops are called in to help Dory, including the always adorable otters who quite literally stop traffic. And a dolphin makes for a slick and humorous comrade with the use of some nifty echolocation.  

Even though Finding Nemo is already 13 years old, it feels like this sequel needed a little more time to develop and reach a higher plane. As it stands, it’s pretty forgettable.