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Review: ‘Dory’ lacking that special Pixar sizzle

Patrick Dunn
Special to The Detroit News

“Finding Dory” is a perfectly good kids’ movie. But is it Pixar good? Well … not quite.

Dory, voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, in a scene from "Finding Dory."

The sequel to Pixar’s 2003 blockbuster “Finding Nemo” focuses on the endearingly forgetful tang fish Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), who in the original served as sidekick to Albert Brooks’ clownfish Marlin in his search for his lost son. This time Dory is on her own family’s trail, seeking her long-lost parents at the Sea World-like Marine Life Institute as she battles her chronic short-term memory loss and a host of other obstacles.

The sequel lacks its predecessor’s sense of scale, trading the intimidatingly large stage of Australia’s entire eastern coast for (mostly) a single amusement park and its immediate environs. As such, it loses some of “Nemo” ’s spectacle, but introduces some entertaining new characters in the process. Idris Elba and Dominic West are hilarious as a pair of helpful, but lazy sea lions, and Ed O’Neill lends his typical lovable grumpiness to the character of Hank, Dory’s octopus sidekick.

The film is often visually striking and charming enough, but it’s low on two things we’ve come to expect from Pixar: comedy and moving emotional moments. With the exception of a madcap chase sequence late in the game, the laughs are mostly left to Elba and West’s sea lions. And while Dory’s search does reach an emotional end, it’s hardly a tearjerker.

By the measuring stick of other children’s entertainment, “Finding Dory” is still a bit above average — and it’s certainly much better than Pixar low points like “Cars 2.” But for those adult Pixar fans anticipating the richness of something like “Inside Out” or even “Toy Story 2,” “Dory” only suffers in the towering shadow of Pixar’s many truly great achievements.

Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.

‘Finding Dory’

GRADE: B-

Rated PG for mild thematic elements

Running time: 97 minutes