The longer a sequel takes to be made, the higher the stakes become (see the budget for the upcoming Independence Day: Resurgence). Also, focusing a sequel on a supporting character (Minions, Evan Almighty) doesn’t always pay off as well as the original. However, when you have the star power of Ellen DeGeneres, and bring back some of the old gang, you’re not going to end up with Cars 2.
Finding Dory starts about a year after Nemo and his father Marlin are reunited. Dory is part of their little world now, but starts having flashbacks to her childhood (and a super cute mini blue tang she is, all eyes!). She realizes that she does have a family, probably somewhere, and mentions an address in her sleep that Nemo overhears. Because Nemo thrives on adventure (see Finding Nemo), he convinces Marlin that they should help Dory find her parents, though they get separated pretty quickly as with all good heist/discovery movies.
My favorite thing throughout the movie is how many different times we see that, despite her disability (short term memory loss), she’s able to retain all kinds of things that still make her Dory. We all have memories that fade, why you decided to go to prom with Mark or how you actually chose the restaurant for that first date is just a curiosity from your past, rather than a distinct memory. But often, something can trigger that memory. Dory is reminded of her mother whenever she sees a purple shell or hears the phrase “just keep swimming,” which was part of a song she learned from her mother.
Similar to Inside Out’s look at personality, Finding Dory looks at memory, though in a much more cursory way. Some of that shallow treatment is what keeps the film from reaching the height of its predecessor. Rather than just focusing on one main theme, it tries to examine disability, memory, learning, taking chances and living a big life. The problem with painting with such a broad brush is that the importance of each message in the film is banged over your head. Furthermore, these moments of significance are frequently and forcefully sandwiched between comedic beats that do not always fit.
The new characters, Hank the octopus (Ed O’Neil), Destiny the whale shark (Kaitlin Olson) and Bailey the beluga whale (Ty Burrell), are terrific new friends for Dory. And for comic relief, the sea lions Fluke and Rudder (Idris Elba and Dominic West respectively) are characters worth revisiting. I don’t think it’s any longer a derogatory statement to say that these characters (if not these voices) could make a pretty impressive television series. Of course, that could be because I’ve been exposed to some pretty good kids TV lately. Overall, Finding Dory is good entertainment. It’s not for the smallest kids (it might not hold their attention) and it’s likely to only appeal to adults on a nostalgic level. Though it may not match its predecessor, the film is still a worthy entry in the Pixar universe.