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Movie Review: 'Finding Dory' Is No Game-Changer

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Thirteen years is a lifetime in Hollywood. But that's how long it's been between Pixar's "Finding Nemo" and its new sequel "Finding Dory." MORNING EDITION and Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan has this review.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: It's not every supporting player who can go out there and become a star. Determined Dory, a forgetful sidekick in "Finding Nemo," is now front and center in "Finding Dory." The results are not encouraging. As Nemo fans will remember, Dory is a fish with short-term memory problems. "Nemo" director Andrew Stanton takes these issues a bit more seriously here, turning his new film into a kiddie version of Christopher Nolan's "Memento."

"Finding Dory" struggles with making its protagonist's memory problems involving. Ellen DeGeneres' patented likability goes only so far with a character who is often unable to finish a sentence. You're supposed to find this deficiency endearing. But it also might make you, well, crabby. Suddenly, Dory has glimmers of memory of her parents and their past life together in a place called the Marine Life Institute in California's Morro Bay.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "FINDING DORY")

ELLEN DEGENERES: (As Dory) I remember them - my mom, my dad. I have a family. They don't know where I am. Let's go.

TURAN: More fun than Dory herself are the other sea creatures Dory encounters as he tries to figure out where in the institute her parents might be, creatures like Hank, an octopus who wants to go to Cleveland. The plot gets unfortunately frenetic with all manner of fishy misadventures. Enter two more creatures - nearsighted whale shark Destiny and Bailey, a beluga whale who needs help with his sonar.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "FINDING DORY")

TY BURRELL: (As Bailey) I really can't echolocate.

KAITLIN OLSON: (As Destiny) Oh, I cannot have this conversation again. I just can't.

BURRELL: (As Bailey) I hit my head very hard out there. See how swollen it is?

OLSON: (As Destiny) Your head is supposed to the big. You're a beluga.

TURAN: "Finding Dory" tries its hardest, but it remains a midrange effort, not a game-changer like "WALL-E," "Up" or "Inside Out." No one can be a genius every time out, not even Pixar.

MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for the LA Times and MORNING EDITION. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Kenneth Turan is the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition, as well as the director of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes. He has been a staff writer for the Washington Post and TV Guide, and served as the Times' book review editor.