With summer comes more movies for out of school, and bored out of their minds, children. There promise to be at least three good ones this summer (the third is the final chapter of Ice Age, which comes later this month). The first two have opened to good reviews, and in some cases rave reviews. Finding Dory (Disney/Pixar) came out mid-June and is the sequel to Finding Nemo— a very hard act to follow to say the least. Actually the movie should have been entitled ‘finding Dory’s parents’ since the story is told from Dory’s point of view, a fish with ‘remembery problems’. This movie comes accompanied with another excellent Pixar short— Pipers, about sandpipers, and in particular a baby one. As children’s movies go, Finding Dory is a bit long (100 minutes running time) and doesn’t have the same zing and pizazz as the original film, and unexpectedly it is something of a tear-jerker in parts. Dory keeps not finding her parents even after long journeys, and of course for me, a story about parents who lose their daughter is a little too close to the bone anyway. I cried in parts of this movie. Ellen Degeneres deserves full marks for an excellent voicing of Dory, and interestingly there is an overlap of voicing in these two films, as Albert Brooks is in both of them.
As you would expect, the animation is stellar in this film, but there are places where the story drags and seems too long. You keep going and going, of course the climax of the movie has to be some sort of resolution of the search for the parents, but actually, it doesn’t come soon enough. There is some humor, and some fun actions, but more than anything this film has pathos, something you don’t see a lot in children’s movies. By this I mean that there are two difficulties Dory faces, her own attention deficit or memory disorder, and the loss of her parents. Both of which lead to self-doubt and discouragement. The writers did a good job of portraying the difficulties of life for those who have memory issues, short term or otherwise. Dory cuts a sympathetic picture, and also a picture of an overcomer too. So there are some good messages in this film, though I suspect they would go right over the heads of very young children.
As for The Secret Life of Pets (90 minutes) brought to us by the Minion/Illumination people (complete with a minion short subject which has a hilarious lawn mowing scene), it is much more fun and funny. Kevin Hart steals the show playing a crazed bunny on a mission to get revenge against humans who have neglected, abandoned, or abused pets. The movie is ‘littered’ with funny cats and dogs and birds (Albert Brooks plays the hawk in this one) who keep one continually entertained even when the plot wanders around a bit. The premise of the movie is of course ‘what pets do when their owners are away at work or elsewhere’, and some of those scenes are hilarious. But the film also turns into a buddy movie of sort when Max and Duke bond, along the way, and there is even a doggy romance of interest. If you are looking for fun and funny summer fare, this is a film the whole family can enjoy and laugh at, which includes enough adult jokes (and classic rock numbers) to keep the parents interested.