Directed by Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane
Starring Ellen Degeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O'Neill
Most sequels are never warranted, but every once in a while a gem pops up that reminds you how much you loved the original. In the summertime sequel season it's easily hit or miss when it comes to telling the next chapter of a story and, in the case of Finding Dory, it's definitely a hit.
It's been thirteen years since Finding Nemo swam into the Disney/Pixar kingdom of animated classics and became a cash cow of branded products and delightful catchphrases. While the story of a father's frantic search for his kidnapped son was both riveting and beautifully animated, it was the relentless sidekick Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) who made the lasting impression.
In this new adventure, the story picks up a year after Nemo's return and Dory, who suffers from short term memory loss, wakes to a epiphany about her own family and the day she lost them. What follows is a very similar scenario as the first film, but is told in a way that is still just as charming and hilarious, mostly thanks to DeGeneres' spirited performance as the forgetful Dory.
The antics are equal parts harrowing and somewhat over the top, which diminishes the eye-popping animation to something not quite as impacting, but the smarmy charm laced throughout makes up for it. A new band of supporting characters helps keep the ball rolling, especially in the form of cranky octopus Hank (Ed O'Neill). When we find our friendly fish hopping around a marine life research center, we get the chance to meet an array of new places and faces.
Finding Dory is not quite the same calibre as its predecessor. There's a bar set for animated films that separates the comedic entertainment tropes from the Oscar-worthy pedigree of films like Beauty and the Beast and the entire Toy Story series. While Dory isn't an embarrassment like other Pixar sequels (looking at you Cars 2 and Monsters University), it does suffer from feeling the need to do too much, rather than just being an experience. It is a film about talking fish, of course, so some need for realism has to go out the window, but when a studio sets boundaries with emotional features harkening to our deepest feelings, there are certain expectations in place.
Dory meets most of these, but suffers from a plot that steps too far from being organic.
Since it's taken so long to get this new glimpse under the sea, the entire film feels very aware of the audience. Kids will be enamored, but it's the older crowd that will truly find this worth their time. The jokes are fun, especially a hilarious throw towards Sigourney Weaver, and there's an overall theme of finding your place that resonates more towards an adult's search for meaning that a kid's awareness of their own personal surroundings.
Is Finding Dory perfect? No. But, it does live up to its expectations and makes for a summertime sequel worth seeing.
Runtime: 103 minutes