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Finding Dory (3D Blu-ray Review)

21 Nov, 2016 By: John Latchem

Box Office $486.2 million
$29.99 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray, $39.99 3D Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG’ for mild thematic elements
Voices of Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Ed O'Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy.

For all of Pixar’s success in animation, most of its movies tend to follow a simple formula: Separate characters from their homes or their way of life and watch them find their way back, learning valuable lessons and meeting new friends along the way. It worked for Toy Story; it worked for Inside Out; it even worked for Cars and The Good Dinosaur.

Some movies, such as Toy Story 2 and Finding Nemo, switch it up by sending characters to search for the ones who are lost. Finding Dory sort of puts all the variants into a blender to produce another tried-and-true winner for Disney.

Finding Dory begins with the premise that the quest in 2013’s Finding Nemo actually interrupted Dory’s own attempts to find her parents.

Because of Dory’s short-term memory loss, she forgot where she came from after being separated from them, then spent years wandering the ocean trying to find someone to help her before bumping into Marlin (Albert Brooks) in the first movie and helping him rescue his son, Nemo.

A year later, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) finally remembers she was looking for her parents, as well as some clues as to where they could be. Marlin and Nemo agree to help her look, ending up at a sea-life theme park in California.

Naturally, Marlin and Nemo get separated from Dory along the way, causing them to look for her while she continues to search for her parents. Dory encounters a mix of old and new friends at the park, including Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), a whale-shark who knew her as a kid, and Hank (Ed O’Neill), a cranky octopus who is easily the film’s breakout character. The aquarium is full of wonderful new characters for Marlin and Nemo to find as well, such as some lazy sea lions and an overly friendly clam.

The animation is as beautiful as the first film, though the story finds some new settings to take the characters. The 3D certainly adds to the wonderment of the scenery but isn’t intrinsic in any way to enjoyment of the film. The Blu-ray includes four of the film’s undersea landscapes as “Living Aquariums,” which are basically hours of looped footage serving as screen savers for HDTVs as background art.

The lightheartedness of the film’s adventure is undercut a bit by two potentially serious themes underpinning the story. On one hand is the notion that Dory’s parents may be dead, and the prospects of learning to live with loss that might entail. But the more prevailing subject matter deals with Dory’s mental condition, and how it can be a serious thing when not being exploited for comedic value.

Thoughts of the latter helped inspire this sequel, as co-director Andrew Stanton was struck by a concern for what would happen to Dory after the events of the first movie. There are even moments in Finding Dory in which she finds herself helpless due to her condition, which only makes her more endearing. Along these lines, the Blu-ray includes the new short film Marine Life Interviews, in which the film’s new characters reflect on meeting Dory.

One of the biggest challenges for filmmakers, according to the copious behind-the-scenes material on the Blu-ray, was finding a way to introduce a story about Dory while maintaining the spirit of the first film. At least four different alternate openings are presented among 50 minutes of deleted material.

The making of the film is covered in several short featurettes totaling about 40 minutes, dealing with everything from creating the story, to designing the characters, finding new animation techniques and composing the music.

The most interesting tidbit here might be about the design of Hank, which caused a lot of headaches for the animators in trying to render a shape-shifting creature with multiple arms. In fact, they ended up designing Hank with only seven arms to save themselves a lot of work in the animation process, which ended up as a story point in the movie with Hank explaining that he once lost a tentacle.

More insights are available in the filmmaker commentary with Stanton, co-director Angus MacLane and producer Lindsey Collins.

Other extras include a three-minute sequence of Finding Nemo re-told using emojis, and a three-minute reel called “Fish Schticks” of random sketches and sight gags involving the characters.

Also available on the Blu-ray is the theatrical short Piper, a cute story of a baby bird learning how to find food on the beach.

There are also two extras available exclusively with the digital version of the film, which can be accessed with the Disney Movies Anywhere code accompanying the Blu-ray. One is a three-minute featurette that describes some of the Easter Eggs hidden throughout the movie.

Another is a 15-minute deleted sequence involving Nemo’s buddies from the fish tank in the first movie, which was ultimately cut because they were taking up too much of the plot and shifting the focus away from Dory. The Tank Gang do make an appearance in the final film, one that I think works better in connecting the two films as a unified whole.

About the Author: John Latchem

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