Finding Dory (PG) ★★★½

‘Finding Dory’ stars Ellen Degeneres (Dory), Albert Brooks (Marlin), Hayden Rolence (Nemo), Ed O’Neill (Hank), Ty Burrell (Bailey), Diane Keaton (Jenny), Eugene Levy (Charlie). Photo Credit: Disney Studio.

Finding Dory is a whopper of a film that’s part comedic ‘fish tale’ but mostly life lessons for kids. Sensitivity to disabilities is front and center with the added bonus of parenting advice.

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Hayden Rolence (voice) of Nemo in “Finding Dory” Photo Credit: Sarah Knight Adamson

 * Extra Bonus: I interviewed the voice of Nemo, Hayden Rolence, a Chicago-land resident, for Naperville Magazine. My article under the “Dream Job” section will be in print and online August 1, 2016. I’ve included some extra quotes from the interview in this review.

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Sarah Knight Adamson and Hayden Rolence (voice of Nemo) Finding Dory, 2016, Photo Credit: Marlene Rolence

Ellen DeGeneres is back as the voice of the beloved regal blue tang fish Dory, who struggles with short-term memory loss. It’s the sequel to the Academy Award-winning Pixar-animated Disney film, Finding Nemo (2003). The question at hand comes down to whether or not Dory’s story is compelling enough to warrant a sequel. I’m here to say—absolutely. The more that people, especially children, are exposed to the traits of mental and physical disabilities, the better our world will be. Along that same note, the song “What a Wonderful World” by Louis Armstrong near the end of the film seems perfect.

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Enter the undersea world of Pixar’s cinematic animation and you’ve entered a world like no other. Breathtakingly beautiful oceanic displays of bright neon colors, teeming schools of exotic fish, exquisite corals, swaying plant life, and occasional seafloor litter. A Volkswagen Beetle car serves as a hideout for marine-life, as do large abandoned freight trucks. The film can be viewed in 3D and IMAX to enhance the already glorious sea-world. You can’t help but gasp a few times at the spectacle of it all, which is unequivocally stunning at times. To top it all off, the film has big splashes of humor throughout. They only part I didn’t care for was the truck-driving scene with Hank the octopus. In my mind, here’s an example of going too far from the story; it seemed totally unnecessary. This film has so much going for it—why muddy the waters?

Dory has a difficult time containing her excitement when she suddenly remembers that she has a family; she’s propelled into a new adventure to look for her parents. A similar plot line here as in Finding Nemo 2003, when Marlin (Albert Brooks) went on a similar quest to find his son Nemo (now voiced by Hayden Rolence) in the original film. Dory’s flashback scenes are of a tiny, bug-eyed Dory with her mom, Diane Keaton (Jenny), and dad, Eugene Levy (Charlie). She expresses her nervousness about her short-term memory loss that jumpstarts the plot and we hear her say with a sense of anxiety, “You won’t forget me, will you?” Soon after playing a family game of hide and seek, sadly, Dory can’t find her way home.

Upon this new revelation, a determined Dory enlists the help of Marlin, who’s not wild about the idea of going all the way around the world to Moral Bay, CA to help Dory, but he says he knows a guy who will help. Enter the hippest, gnarliest dude turtle, Crush (Andrew Stanton), who provides transport for the trio across the ocean from Australia to California. The energetic Nemo is always ready for a voyage; he can’t wait to help Dory reunite with her parents. On the other hand, Marlin’s feeling major seasickness.

Andrew Stanton, writer and director of the first film, is at the directing helm again for Finding Dory. He’s added a few new characters such as the cantankerous Octopus “Hank,” voiced by Modern Family’s Ed O’Neill, who Dory meets at the Marine Life Institute. Hank has ulterior motives; the only reason he agrees to help Dory unite with her family is so he can snag her tag, which places him in an exhibit in the Marine Life Institute. Hank would rather live in a square glass box than be subjected to the dangerous, wild, open ocean.

At the Marine Life Institute, Sigourney Weaver is the running joke as her voice is piped in as a guide for patrons. We are introduced to her voice when Dory says, “Sigourney Weaver will help us.” Their motto is “Rescue, Rehabilitate, and Release,” which plays nicely into the theme of disabilities. Bailey the Beluga whale (Ty Burrell) has echolocation skills that are off-kilter, Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), a near-sighted shark, bumps into walls, and Hank, the octopus, is down to seven tentacles, as one was yanked off. The dreaded “Touch Pond” at the institute has little hands grabbing fish, shells, and coral. The horrific “Poker’s Corner” is worse, as the hands are constantly poking at the sea life. Clever concepts indeed, as children see the problems with these kinds of exhibits from the point of view of the sea life. They’re also exposed to the idea of working together, and more importantly, alternate ways to solve a problem.

Clearly, Dory’s motto, “Just Keep Swimming,” is a great example for kids to follow. Nemo, at the sign of trouble, says to his dad, “What would Dory do?” By this time in the film, we know that Dory does not give up; she calms herself and focuses harder on the problem at hand. Congrats to Pixar for centering this film on children and guiding them in the right direction; this former teacher and parent can’t thank you enough!

* Hayden Rolence tells us what he thinks about the saying “What would Dory do?”

“[‘What would Dory do’] sort of means that: just stop thinking about everything. Don’t think about everything mathematically. Don’t plan everything completely. Sometimes that’s bad, because Dory is forced to stop planning and just look at the bigger picture and do what first comes to mind.”

Hayden’s favorite funny part in the film:

 “I really liked it when Dory first meets Destiny and Bailey. Bailey’s just in the background and Destiny is talking to Dory. They’re talking about how Bailey’s head got hurt. He’s like, ‘I still know you’re talking about me’ in the background.”

 Does Dory find her parents? Do Nemo and Marlin live happily ever after? Does Hank live in a glass box of water? Does Sigourney Weaver come through in the end? All these questions are answered along with a heartwarming lesson on the meaning of family.

What does Hayden think people should take away from the film?

 “I think that they should take away that everybody has a different idea of what home is and who is in their family and who they love. I think they should really take away that message.”

The Bottom-Line? Fans of the Finding Nemo will not be disappointed, plenty of life lessons for kids and families.

Cast: Ellen DeGeneres (Dory), Albert Brooks (Marlin), Hayden Rolence (Nemo), Ed O’Neill (Hank), Ty Burrell (Bailey).

Credits: Directed by Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane. Written by Andrew Stanton.

Studio: Walt Disney Pictures/PIXAR

Run Time: 1 hour 40 minutes

Hayden Rolence playing Billy Joel’s ‘My Life.’ He sang the song as well. Photo Credit: Sarah Knight Adamson

*Clearly Hayden Rolence is a rising star! Check back for updates as we’ll keep you posted. In the meantime: @Haydenrolence  Official Website:  Facebook: Hayden Rolence