It’s been thirteen years since Pixar released Finding Nemo. That film became an absolute phenomenon that summer and when Disney finally bought Pixar and instituted their two original films for one sequel/prequel rule, it was inevitable that a sequel to Nemo would be coming. Now, Finding Dory is here, but is it more Toy Story 2 or Cars 2?
The story begins a year after the events of Finding Nemo. Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), the forgetful blue tang who helped Marlin (Albert Brooks) find Nemo (Hayden Rolence), is now living with Marlin and Nemo. She has flashes of memories where she remembers her parents, Charlie (Eugene Levy) and Jenny (Diane Keaton). So, she enlists Marlin and Nemo’s help to find them. Their journey brings them to a marine life institute, where they get separated. Marlin and Nemo launch a rescue mission, while Dory makes her way through the facility searching for her parents. She allies herself with an ornery octopus named Hank (Ed O’Neill) and learns more about her past as she tries to get home.
I was worried about Finding Dory when it was first announced. It sounded like another case of Cars 2—take a supporting character from the first film, make her the lead, and watch the film crash and burn. I’m happy to report that Finding Dory is great. It has a ton of humor, but an equal amount of heart. Director and co-Writer Andrew Stanton has taken a character that was a gag in the first film and turned her into the driving emotional force of the sequel. I like to think of Dory as Disney’s first disabled main character, because her memory condition is so debilitating, it’s impossible to think of her any other way. So, it creates a great message for kids, showing that people can overcome. It’s all wrapped up in a sweet story that will hit all of your emotions. I genuinely felt bad for Dory and you will find yourself constantly worrying about her. My only complaint with the film is that it does drag a bit in parts and can get tedious here and there.
The cast is great here with Brooks and DeGeneres reprising their roles from Finding Nemo. It was really nice to hear their banter again. Brooks is always great, but DeGeneres really delivers in her performance as Dory. She brings a lot of emotion to the role that might surprise a lot of moviegoers. O’Neill is great as Hank and a reliable source of laughs. He was a fantastic addition to the cast. Kaitlin Olson and Ty Burrell give good turns as Destiny and Bailey and Rolence is very good as Nemo. However, the show is probably stolen in flashbacks by Sloane Murray as Young Dory. Those scenes are impossibly cute. There is also a Wire reunion in the cast amongst the sea lions!
Overall, Finding Dory is a great Pixar sequel and worthy successor to Finding Nemo. The original is still better, but this movie could have been much worse and the fact that it succeeds on so many levels is a testament to Stanton and Pixar.