Finding Dory (2016) / Animation-Adventure

MPAA Rated: PG for mild thematic elements
Running Time: 97 min.

Cast (voices): Ellen Degeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O'Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Hayden Rolence, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Sloane Murray, Idris Elba, Dominic West, Bob Peterson, Sigourney Weaver
Small role (voices): Bill Hader, Andrew Stanton, John Ratzenberger, Willem Dafoe, Brad Garrett, Allison Janney, Austin Pendleton, Stephen Root, Vicki Lewis
Director: Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane
Screenplay: Andrew Stanton
Review published June 17, 2016

Thirteen years after the wildly beloved Finding Nemo comes the follow-up, Finding Dory, which seeks to give fans the full story on the comic-relief character.  In this year of belated sequels to films that didn't need one, Finding Dory is one of the rare exceptions on whether it's worth one more go-around to haul the family to the theater to see.  As with the best of the Pixar films, it delivers a good mix of humor and emotional content, with heartening themes of family that will likely have parents and kids hugging one another just a little tighter the next time they do so after seeing the film together.  While it's not quite as good as Finding Nemo, and most fans of the studio will not rank it among the upper echelon of Pixar releases, it's a better film than their sequels like Cars 2 and Monsters University.

With the exception of a few flashbacks to Dory's early days as a baby fish with her loving mother and father, most of the events of this follow-up takes place about a year after the adventure in Finding Nemo.  Ellen Degeneres (EdTV, Mr. Wrong) voices the short-term memory-addled Dory as an adult blue tang, continuing her friendship with clownfishes Marlin (Brooks, Concussion) and his son Nemo (Rolence) in the reefs near Australia.  Dory is struggling to remember her parents that she was separated from at an early age, though she sometimes remembers fragments of those early days, with enough clues to set out on her own to try to find them in, "the jewel of Morro Bay, California."  With worrywart Marlin and excitable Nemo in tow, Dory sets off on her quest for a (hopefully) happy reunion across the Pacific, where a marine-life rehabilitation facility may hold the key to the mystery of the parental whereabouts, if only the new creatures she meets can help her remember the clues along the way.

While we see many of the same cartoonish but appealing characters, and it also features a plot line of one family member in search of another, Finding Dory manages to find enough separation in its locale and basic structure to minimize the typical sequel weakness of being a mere regurgitation of the first entry.  New characters brings forth new jokes, and the new setting, which utilizes lots of photorealistic environments outside of the ocean, breath new life into a storyline that could easily have come off as stale leftovers.  There are also a few surprising moments of sympathetic seriousness, rounding out a character that had largely been one-note in her original appearance. The themes of family and what it means to find home are still here, but rarely in a way in which it feels regurgitated, at least for those who have several years separating the viewings of both films.

Returning as a creative force is Andrew Stanton (Wall-E, A Bug's Life), who co-wrote and co-directed the original Finding Nemo, and handles the many turns in the narrative and heartwarming tone of the emotionally layered film without much of a hiccup.  It's not as impactful as Finding Nemo, and it doesn't merit the same rewatchability factor, but there's plenty here to impressed with on a first-time watch.  As for where the film series goes from here, if indeed it does, there are a number of potential secondary characters worthy of their own quest, from Hank (O'Neill, Wreck-It Ralph), the crafty, chameleon-like octopus (or a "septipus", as he is missing one arm) looking for a free pass to a life at the Cleveland Zoo, Destiny (Olson, The Heat) the nearsighted whale shark, Bailey (Burrell, Muppets Most Wanted) the echolocation-challenged beluga whale, and a couple of rascally Cockney sea lions named Rudder (West, Money Monster) and Fluke (Elba, The Jungle Book).  If those films can be of the same quality as the first two, let's hope it won't be another thirteen years before we see these characters again.

-- There are extra scenes featuring the characters during the credits, and a short extra scene after the credits.

Qwipster's rating:

2016 Vince Leo