It’s been a year after Nemo (voiced by Hayden Rolence) got found by dear ol’ dad, Marlin (Albert Brooks), thanks to short-term memory Dory (DeGeneres), and suddenly one day Dory gets a flashback memory of her childhood, plus dear ol’ mom and dad (Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton) back in Morro Bay, California. Seized with this “I have parents!” memory, Dory, Marlin, and Nemo go on a road trip. . .er, sea trip (thanks to sea turtle Crush and the super-currents) to the Morro Bay Marine Life Institute, where Dory gets more flashes of her home life somewhere inside the facility. But! Dory gets scooped up and ‘rescued’ by institute workers and brought inside for rehabilitation, while Marlin and Nemo go crazy trying to rescue their friend.
From here the story splits into two: Dory meets an irritable septopus (an octopus missing a tentacle) named Hank (Ed O’Neill) who just wants to be left alone and agrees to help Dory find her folks in exchange for some peace and quiet. Then you have Marlin and Nemo getting help from two British sea lions (Idris Elba and Dominic West) and a messed-up bird to fly them into the institute. Meanwhile, Dory meets a friendly near-sighted whale shark named Destiny (Kaitlin Olsen), who also happens to be her old childhood friend, and Bailey (Ty Burrell), a beluga whale whose echo-locater is spotty. Through misadventures and hi-jinks galore, Dory manages to find out that her parents left along time ago, BUT, they turn up in a fantastic coincidence so implausible that. . .
Anyway, the ending has a silly and unbelievable ‘chase scene’ at the end, because when you’re stuck for a real ending, you gotta put in a chase scene. The heavy-handed parenting-loss theme is all over the place here with director/writer Andrew Stanton fulfilling his promise to DeGeneres to make a sequel all about her character. There, happy now?
2003’s Finding Nemo had a creative fun spark and an unabashed natural flow to it, but this sequel seems to lack that same magic and energy the first one did. Yes, it carries the same Pixar CGI quality, which is unsurpassed on film, but the screenplay by Stanton and Victoria Strouse covers the same old familiar ground here, throwing in a massive amount of ‘pity-party’ loss and desperation into the mix. For a kids movie, that’s pretty heavy-handed and tends to grind to the movie to halt. Even the comedy, at times, feels forced and re-tooled from the first movie.
You really have to hand it to DeGeneres here; her vocal characterizations drive the movie and make Dory one of the most lovably pathetic Pixar characters ever. Ed O’Neill lends his great exasperated Al Bundy voice to the frustrated 7-legged octopus and, of course, what Pixar film is complete without John Ratzenberger’s voice? Yup, he’s here along with director Stanton’s as Crush, the laid-back sea turtle.
And just like the previous film, The Good Dinosaur, there’s a 6-minute short film before Finding Dory. It’s called Piper (about an ambitious baby sandpiper) and it’s superb, boasting some of the most amazing photo-realistic CGI ever, and besting the main feature as well.
When you think of all the dumb movies ever made, North may be at the top of the list. Based on a novel called North: The Tale of a 9-Year-Old Boy Who Becomes a Free Agent and Travels the World in Search of the Perfect Parents by Alan Zweibel, who co-wrote the screenplay, this fish-out-of-water tale is ridiculously ridiculous from the start and goes downhill from there.
Future Frodo Baggins Elijah Woods plays young North, a child prodigy who is ignored by his bickering parents (future Seinfeld‘s Jason Alexander and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) and yearns for a better life. A better life at age nine? Whatever. Anywho, one day lamenting this inside a department store, he meets a man dressed in a large pink Easter bunny costume (Bruce Willis) whom he tells his problems. This man is, we’ll learn, North’s sorta-conscience. North gets the nutty idea of divorcing his parents, which he does, causing his parents to be rendered comatose. With no opposition from North’s parents, a judge (Alan Arkin) gives North one summer to go out and find new parents or he’ll be put in an orphanage. Sounds logical, right?
He tries out wacky Texas oil tycoons (Reba McIntyre and Dan Ackroyd), but they just want to fatten him up, then Hawaiian Governor and his wife (Keone Young and Lauren Tom) who want his butt-crack on a billboard for advertising, then Alaskan couple (Graham Greene and Kathy Bates) who plan on mercy-killing their elderly grandfather (Abe Vigoda), then Amish parents (Alexander Gudenov and Kelly McGinnis), then the U.S. Nelson family (John Ritter and Faith Ford) and their little daughter Laura (Scarlett Johansson in her first screen role) who are… well, they’re too nice! Plus other parents that aren’t quite right.
With each disastrous meeting, Bruce Willis pops up, gives North sage advice, and guides him to the next one. The ending is a bizarre turn of events (as if the movie itself weren’t) as North’s school pal, Winchell (Matthew McCurley) and tries to have him assassinated so that other kids can divorce their parents as well. But, as in all badly-written movies, the ending just proves to be a dream, and North wakes up in that department store and is content to be with his ‘normal’ parents.
Needless to say, this movie bombed at the box office big time, and was ripped to shreds by every film critic on Earth. However, it DID earn SIX Golden Raspberry Awards and a place on Roger Ebert’s Worst Movies Of All Time list, so there’s that. Aside from the truly impressive cast list (and it IS truly impressive!) the movie was directed by Rob Reiner who, I’m guessing, thought it might be a funny movie? “It really wasn’t THAT bad”, he said afterwards in an interview. Oh, I beg to differ, Mr. Reiner. The only redeeming quality was 13-year-old Elijah Wood who, even at that young age, showed he could carry an entire movie and go toe-to-toe with some of the biggest stars in Hollywood.