Lost once again

More than a decade after the release of Pixar’s Oscar-winning “Finding Nemo,” the Disney-owned company returns with a follow-up that proves oftentimes the best sequels are the ones that studios take the extra time to get right.

Dory, a loveable blue tang fish with short term memory loss, heads across the Pacific Ocean in search of the parents she forgot one year following the events of “Nemo.” When she loses her way and is captured by a California aquarium, her clownfish friends Marlin and Nemo must come to her rescue.

Though the plotline is a similar narrative to the first film, “Dory” is otherwise a perfect family-friendly animated film and improves on “Nemo” at every turn.

With more of the spotlight on Dory this go-round, Ellen Degeneres is spectacular voicing the charming, yet aloof star. She elevates the material from writer/director Andrew Stanton to the next level. More than a decade later, Degeneres’ vocal performance in “Nemo” is still the main highlight of the iconic Disney/Pixar’s film and she’s even better in an expanded role.

Many critics have argued for the inclusion of a voice performance in acting category nominations at the annual Academy Awards and few efforts seem more perfect for honoring than Degeneres. The way she is able to infuse Dory with wonder, confusion, heart, humor and life simply by reading words on a page is remarkable.

Dory’s visual demeanor, attitude and vibrancy on screen is attributable to Degeneres’ imagination and acting. No voice actor has been more instrumental to the overall success of their film than Degeneres to “Nemo” and “Dory.”

Albert Brooks returns to voice Dory’s fatherly friend Marlin, while Hayden Rolence takes over the part of Nemo from Alexander Gould, whose voice has deepened since “Finding Nemo” premiered in 2003.

Neither character is as fully developed in “Dory” as Stanton focuses most of the storyline on Dory’s quest and introduces several new characters to the mix.

“Dory” also sports an impressive supporting cast, including Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy as Dory’s parents, Kaitlin Olson as a near-sighted whale shark and Ty Burrell as a beluga whale.

Veteran television star Ed O’Neill voices disgruntled octopus Hank, who begrudgingly forms a friendship with Dory. Among the newcomers to the film, O’Neill stands out as the highlight, matching Degeneres step for step as Hank and Dory make their way through the aquarium. Pixar gives Hank a chameleon-like ability to blend into any background, which stands as the most visually impressive part of a stellar cinematic experience.

“Finding Dory” is also buoyed by what may be next year’s Academy Award winner for best animated short with “Piper.”

“Piper” follows a baby sandpiper bird learning about water along a beach, something that doesn’t in and of itself seem all that remarkable. The true brilliance of “Piper” is when audiences realize that they’re watching animation and not something filmed by Disneynature.

The short’s director, Alan Barillaro, spent years fine-tuning realistic animation of the tiny sandpiper with additional care taken to every feather. “Piper” pairs well with “Dory” to create a sublime movie-going experience.

Well worth the price of admission, “Finding Dory” is sure to be an iconic animated film on the same level as “Finding Nemo” before it and should be the front-runner to take home the Academy Award for best animated film over Disney’s “Zootopia.”

Ordering tickets online well in advance of show time is recommended as “Dory” is going to be one of those films audiences return to see multiple times in theaters.

An instant classic, “Finding Dory” is more than a typical kids’ movie and a must-find for moviegoers of all ages.

Continue the conversation online at cinematicconsiderations.com.

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