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Finding Dory: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Finding Dory (2016) movie poster Finding Dory

Theatrical Release: June 17, 2016 / Running Time: 97 Minutes / Rating: PG

Directors: Andrew Stanton; Angus MacLane (co-director) / Writers: Andrew Stanton (original story & screenplay); Victoria Strouse (screenplay); Bob Peterson (additional screenplay material); Angus MacLane (additional story material)

Voice Cast: Ellen DeGeneres (Dory), Albert Brooks (Marlin), Ed O'Neill (Hank), Kaitlin Olson (Destiny), Hayden Rolence (Nemo), Ty Burrell (Bailey), Diane Keaton (Jenny), Eugene Levy (Charlie), Sloane Murray (Young Dory), Idris Elba (Fluke), Dominic West (Rudder), Bob Peterson (Mr. Ray), Kate McKinnon (Wife Fish), Bill Hader (Husband Fish - Stan), Sigourney Weaver (Sigourney Weaver), Alexander Gould (Passenger Carl), Torbin Xan Bullock (Gerald), Andrew Stanton (Crush), Katherine Ringgold (Chicken Fish), Lucia Geddes (Tween Dory), Bennett Dammann (Squirt), John Ratzenberger (Husband Crab - Bill), Willem Dafoe (Gill), Brad Garrett (Bloat), Allison Janney (Peach), Austin Pendleton (Gurgle), Stephen Root (Bubbles), Vicki Lewis (Deb & Flo), Jerome Ranft (Jacques)

Buy Finding Dory from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD • Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD • DVD • Instant Video

Upon its theatrical release in 2003, Finding Nemo became one of the highest grossing films of all time. At most animation studios, that would have been reason enough to quickly proceed with a sequel. But back then, Pixar Animation Studios was all about originality and creating new worlds. Since being acquired by Disney in 2006, Pixar has changed a little. They're still capable of wowing with imaginative new tales like Inside Out. But they've become more aware and accepting of the realities of business.
After Toy Story 3 joined the then-exclusive billion dollar worldwide movie club in 2010 without any dip in the studio's integrity and standards, who could object to sequels and prequels becoming a staple of Pixar output? Certainly not Disney shareholders and neither could those who simply considered themselves fans of the most decorated and successful animation house of modern times.

After a lackluster Cars sequel, a fine but unextraordinary Monsters, Inc. prequel, and last year's oppositely received original movies, Pixar returns to the universe of what was once their biggest blockbuster ever. The title and trailers for Finding Dory did not inspire the greatest amount of hope. A similar plot with one twist was the kind of thing Disney did during their lamentable direct-to-video sequel craze that coincided with Pixar's peak creativity. Still, you had to imagine Pixar would try to protect and honor the legacy of one of their most popular films both in the interest of their brand and out of duty to the generation for whom it was one of the most-seen and best-loved films. Some of that generation is already old enough to have kids of their own who are sure to be part of the audience for a follow-up whose built-in appeal overshadows any concerns of narrative inessentiality.

The amnesiac blue tang Dory goes searching for her parents and gets lost in Disney/Pixar's "Finding Dory."

Gladly, Finding Dory is decidedly not a remake of the original film with Dory as the missing fish. We open with the blue tang a doe-eyed child living happily with her parents Charlie (Eugene Levy) and Jenny (Diane Keaton). Those parents try to help her overcome the short-term memory loss with which she was born. But she soon gets separated from them in a sequence that will get tears flowing for many. Dory asks around the ocean for help finding her parents, to no avail. We fast-forward to the events of the original film, when Dory (now and henceforth voiced, of course, by Ellen DeGeneres) crosses paths with the clownfish Marlin (Albert Brooks) looking for his missing son.

A year after the father and son's reunion, Dory has become like a fun, scatterbrained aunt to Nemo (Hayden Rolence, inevitably replacing Alexander Gould, who provides other voices), sleeping across from their anemone and helping out Mr. Ray (Nemo co-writer Bob Peterson, evidently harboring no ill will after getting replaced as director of The Good Dinosaur) at school. But Dory starts remembering pieces of her childhood and her parents. She decides to look for them in California (cue a brief but welcome current ride with Crush and his fellow sea turtles), but her journey is altered when she is drawn in by the voice of Sigourney Weaver and finds herself undergoing the first stage of the Marine Life Institute's motto "Rescue, Rehabilitate, and Release."

At the Institute, Dory quickly makes a useful friend in Hank (Ed O'Neill), a camouflage-equipped octopus, er, septopus (he's missing a tentacle) who agrees to help Dory look for her parents in exchange for the tag she has on her fin that grants transport to a facility in Cleveland. Hank is but the first and most focal of new characters at the Institute who use their abilities to help Dory. There's also near-sighted whale shark Destiny (Kaitlin Olson) and her neighbor Bailey (Ty Burell), a beluga whale uncertain of his echolocation.

Meanwhile, a distinctly secondary story layer has Marlin and Nemo on the search for their missing friend, encountering such potential allies as sea lions and a mangy bird named Becky who requires an imprint.

In their search for Dory, Nemo and Marlin encounter Becky, a mangy bird who requires an imprint to help them sneak into the aquarium's quarantine area.

Not as far out there as the extensions to the Monsters and Cars universes, Finding Dory is its own thing, more akin to the Toy Story sequels. Like those and the original Nemo, it's a rescue/escape film, but it's done well and never feels like a retread. The only brush with formula is in the climax, which takes the Pixar's "what could go wrong?" principle a few steps too far,
demanding all kinds of disbelief suspension as Hank commandeers a truck and drives it at length to try and save the day. The sequence, which may remind you of Toy Story 2's airport finale or the door vault adventure of Monsters, Inc., is a bit belabored and below Pixar's trademark inventiveness. Happily, the rest of the film is not, keeping us invested with colorful characters and witty dialogue.

After his commercially unsuccessful foray into live action on John Carter, Andrew Stanton returns to the director's chair he first occupied on the original film. Stanton shares screenplay credit with Victoria Strouse, a newcomer to Pixar. They both have clear respect for Nemo's universe and though very few characters from the original movie resurface in any meaningful way, the new additions maintain the sensibilities.

Of course, the film looks extraordinary. Pixar's visuals have come a long way in thirteen years, but as on the Toy Story films, the increase in detail and sophistication does not betray the established designs. (The film, of course, was in 3D in many theatrical exhibitions, to no discernible effect. Though available in a 4-disc Blu-ray 3D combo pack, Disney only sent the 3-disc 2D Blu-ray combo pack for review.) We also get more fine work from the distinctive and always good Thomas Newman, who scored the original film as well as Stanton's WALL•E.

Though the end credits song, a cover of Nat King Cole's "Unforgettable" by Sia that doesn't really suit the film at all, may drive you to hit your remote's menu button, you absolutely will want to fast-forward through the very long scroll of names for a fun tag that brings back the otherwise-absent Tank Gang from the original.

Finding Dory was sure to be a blockbuster, although one wonders if it might have found greater commercial success at a different time. The original film's record numbers were in some part due to a gap in the output of the then guaranteed attraction of computer animation. That isn't to take away anything from the movie, which had universal appeal and all the elements you want in a big, rewatchable summer movie. Toy Story 3 seemed like the model by which to measure Finding Dory and even though movie attendance has dropped in the six summers since, its $400 M+ domestic and $1 billion+ worldwide seemed like attainable goals, particularly when Disney's Zootopia and Frozen put up comparable numbers without built-in audiences.

Finding Dory met those goals, its $486 M North American gross making it the runaway #1 movie of the year domestically and its $1.024 billion worldwide narrowly eclipsing Zootopia to rank 2nd for the year behind Captain America: Civil War. 2016 has been very kind to Disney, as they have claimed the top four box office slots worldwide with a Star Wars movie still to come, and Doctor Strange looking to attract crowds for another month at least.

Dory reconnects with her old "pipe pal" Destiny, a near-sighted whale shark.

Zootopia might pose a threat to Pixar repeating in the Oscars' Best Animated Feature category and there's also Disney's Moana, opening next week that will have voter memory issues on its side. Of those three near-certain nominees, I'd give Zootopia the award, but I'm not an Academy member, just an Online Film Critics Society one.

Poised to become the top-selling release of the season, Finding Dory hits stores on Tuesday as a single-disc DVD, the aforementioned four-disc Ultimate Collector's Edition Blu-ray 3D combo pack, and the three-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD edition reviewed here.

Finding Dory: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

1.78:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: 7.1 DTS-HA MA (English), 5.1 DTS-HD HR (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish), Dolby Surround 2.0 (English, Descriptive Video Service)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Spanish), Dolby Surround 2.0 (English, Descriptive Video Service)
Subtitles: English, English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish; Blu-ray only: French
DVD Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: November 15, 2016
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (2 BD-50s & 1 DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Blue Keepcase in Embossed, Prismatic Cardboard Slipcover
Also available in Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Ultimate Collector's Edition ($39.99 SRP), as standalone DVD ($29.99 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Anything less than a perfect presentation from Pixar would be stunning and that isn't among the surprises that the Finding Dory Blu-ray has for us. The 1.78:1 picture utilizes every pixel and seemingly every color to turn your television into an exhibition of pure eye candy. The visual dazzlement is matched by an incomparable 7.1 DTS-HD master audio soundtrack that envelops and immerses consistently. As usual, Pixar supplies other options possibly better suited to your home theater setup (or lack thereof) in the form of 5.1 and 2.0 mixes.

A timid young water bird gets acclimated with his ocean environment in Pixar's short "Piper." Writer-director Andrew Stanton is among the Pixar employees describing the challenges that Hank the septopus posed the production.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's all-HD extras begin with Piper (6:05),
Pixar's pre-Dory theatrical short about an adorable baby sand bird who faces his fear of the waves. It's an appealing directing debut for veteran Pixar animator Alan Barillaro and I suspect likely to earn at least a nomination for the Best Animated Short Oscar.

"Marine Life Interviews" (2:04), an animated short styled like an old documentary, collects amusing thoughts from the new characters about Dory.

"The Octopus That Nearly Broke Pixar" (9:05) looks at the challenges of animating the curmudgeonly Hank. Thoughts from various crew members, looks at the aquarium research done, and glimpses at Ed O'Neill's recording sessions give us insight.

Director Andrew Stanton drives voice cast members Albert Brooks, Ty Burrell, and Eugene Levy to the studio in "Casual Carpool." Albert Brooks, reprising the original film's protagonist Marlin, is seen recording lines in "Animation Acting."

"What Were We Talking About?" (4:31) considers how having a lead character with short-term memory loss posed obstacles for the sequel's storytelling process.

"Casual Carpool" (3:47) sees writer-director Andrew Stanton driving Albert Brooks, Ty Burrell, Eugene Levy, and, eventually, Ed O'Neill to work. They make amusing small talk about coffee, fish, and punctuality.

"Animation Acting" (6:57) shows the funny actors recording their lines and improving upon them improvisationally and the animators using video of those recordings and real fish movement to bring the characters to life.

"Deep in the Kelp" shows a seahorse tank at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, where filmmakers did research. Kaitlin Olson, the voice of Destiny, shares a fact about whale sharks in "Creature Features."

In "Deep in the Kelp" (3:20), Disney Channel star Jenna Ortega takes us to Monterey Bay Aquarium, where filmmakers did research.

The movie disc's video extras end with "Creature Features" (3:02), which lets the voice actors dispense fun facts and insights about the kinds of fish they play.

Finally, we get an audio commentary by writer-director Andrew Stanton, writer-co-director Angus MacLane, and producer Lindsey Collins. They are candid about their creative processes, about coming around to making a sequel, and about different ways the film evolved over time. This enjoyable, informative, and diverting track upholds the historical fact that Pixar commentaries are always quite a bit better than your average commentary.

The bonus features disc divides its contents into four classes.

Character art director Jason Deamer draws characters and comments upon their real world shape equivalents in "Skating & Sketching with Jason Deamer." In "Dory's Theme", Bill Bernstein, Thomas Newman, and Andrew Stanton listen to cues from the score and comment upon them.

First and foremost is Behind the Scenes, which lacks a general making-of featurette (I guess the commentary was supposed to fill that void) but holds five short assorted pieces with more entertainment value than educational.

"Skating & Sketching with Jason Deamer" (4:14) lets a character art director (and longtime Pixar artist) share his processes and the shapes that Finding Dory characters resemble.

"Dory's Theme" (4:57) lets Thomas Newman, Andrew Stanton, and music editor Bill Bernstein listen to and comment upon some musical cues and themes created for the sequel.

"Rough Day on the Reef" preserves interesting-looking goofs born out of the computer animation process. "Finding Nemo as Told by Disney Emoji" isn't as much fun as it sounds.

"Rough Day on the Reef" (1:11) gathers errors the computer made during the animation process.

"Finding Nemo as Told by Disney Emoji" (2:47) retells the original film with big-eyed characters and emojis. As an emoji enthusiast, I thought this would be better.

"Fish Schticks" (3:35) presents short little, mostly nonverbal character gags that Pixar always creates for versatile marketing of their films.

Living Aquariums revives a nifty feature from the original movie's DVD, basically turning your screen into a scenic ocean view. There are four options to choose from here: Sea Grass, Open Ocean, Stingrays, and Swim to the Surface. They'll play for as long as you let them. And you thought screensavers were a thing of the past!

There are lots of deleted scenes on the Finding Dory Blu-ray, but few are this colorful. In Soviet Russia, trailers watch you!

A substantial deleted scenes section consisting of seven scenes and a collective introduction runs 50 minutes and 15 seconds. Stanton introduces all of them individually. Some are fully animated,
but most of them are presented in gray story reel animatic form. The deletions include an alternate opening, an attempt to reuse a moment from the original film, and an encounter with an aquarium "pig" (a foam device used to clean pipes).

Finally, Trailers holds a trailer from four different nations: "Sleep Swimming" from the United States (1:43), "Theatrical Payoff" from Japan (2:09), "Can't Remember" from Spain (1:22), and "Journey" from Russia (2:31). It's always interesting to see how movies were marketed in other parts of the world. These don't disappoint with their drastically different approaches.

As has been the case for about a decade now, the DVD is scaled back from the once great heights that Pixar took the format. (The original two-disc Finding Nemo was the most-purchased DVD of all time.)

All that joins Finding Dory on that disc are Piper and the audio commentary. It's not as if the DVD sold on its own is a 2-disc edition loaded with extras either. If you haven't upgraded to Blu-ray, Disney and Pixar somehow assumes you no longer care about most of the bonus features that used to be standard inclusions on DVD.

The Finding Dory DVD and Blu-ray menus opt for beautiful understatement.

The movie discs open with a promo for Disney Movies Anywhere and trailers for Moana and 2017's live-action Beauty and the Beast. Secondary ads, playing automatically post-movie on the FastPlay-equipped DVD and from both Sneak Peeks listings, promote Disney Movie Rewards, "Elena of Avalor", Disney Store, and Disney On Ice.

Essentially one of the Living Aquariums with listings over it, the scenic, scored main menus survey the ocean before settling on an animated view of one of the film's settings. Both movie discs are fitted with the Maximizer tests for calibrating your home theater, with screens that have not been updated since Ratatouille.

The three uniquely-labeled full-color discs share a standard blue keepcase that also holds a sealed packet with your Disney Movie Rewards/Disney Movies Anywhere code and an ad for Disney Movie Club. The keepcase is topped by an eye-catching, prismatic, and embossed cardboard slipcover.

Pixar sees how far you can suspend disbelief with a finale that sees Hank and Dory traveling by hijacked truck to get where they need to be.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Finding Dory doesn't quite reach the heights of its predecessor or Pixar's best films, but it's a thoroughly entertaining and fun adventure that does not sully the brand or disappoint at all. It is among 2016's most worthwhile films to date.

The Blu-ray combo pack, of course, delivers an exceptional feature presentation and plenty of enjoyable extras on Blu-ray. Perhaps the only good reason to pass on this 3-disc set would be if you felt the need to own the film on Blu-ray 3D, in which case there's an edition for you too.

Buy Finding Dory from Amazon.com:
Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD / Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
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Directed by Andrew Stanton: Finding Nemo • WALL•E • John Carter
The Good Dinosaur • Inside Out • Monsters University • Brave • Cars 2 • Toy Story 3 • Up • Ratatouille
Cars • The Incredibles • Monsters, Inc. • Toy Story 2 • A Bug's Life • Toy Story
Pixar Short Films Collection, Volume 1 • Pixar Short Films Collection, Volume 2 • Toy Story That Time Forgot
2016 Animated Movies: Zootopia • Moana • Kubo and the Two Strings • Sausage Party

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Reviewed November 14, 2016.



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