Thirteen years after Finding Nemo created a big splash—grossing $936.7 million worldwide, winning the Oscar for best animated picture and becoming a modern classic—Pixar Animation Studios finally returns to the ocean with a sequel, Finding Dory.
The long-awaited follow-up to the 2003 smash hit cleverly flip flops the premise of the original. In Finding Nemo, the story was about a parent searching for his child. In Finding Dory, it’s now about a child looking for her parents and herself eventually.
The sequel is sweet, funny and will likely leave some moviegoers all choked up as it dives deep into the importance of family, friendships and never giving up.
Featuring the tagline, “an unforgettable journey she probably won’t remember,” Finding Dory focuses on the memory-challenged, little blue tang fish voiced by talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who searches for her own family—if she can remember what they look like and where they could possibly live.
The computer-animated film reunites Dory with Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks), the clownfish father of Nemo (this time out voiced by Hayden Rolence). Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton returned to direct Finding Dory alongside co-director Angus MacLane. Stanton also does voice work, returning as cool turtle Crush, while Bob Peterson is back as Mr. Ray, the teacher of the reef.
The story begins 12 months after Finding Nemo ends, and Dory remembers that she has a family and wants to set out to find them—even as she battles an endless wave of amnesia.
Accompanied by Nemo and Marlin, Dory must somehow make the trek to the Marine Life Institute (MLI) of California—a large rehabilitation facility for marine life—where she was born and raised. Patterned after the famousMonterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, Calif., MLI is basically a theme-park conservatory watched over by the hilarious recorded voice of Sigourney Weaver on the loudspeaker.
When Dory arrives at MLI, she hooks up with new friends, including a white beluga whale who can’t echolocate named Bailey (Ty Burrell), near-sighted whale shark Destiny (Kaitlin Olson) and cranky octopus Hank (Ed O’Neill).
The MLI’s fish-friendly mission of “Rescue, Rehabilitation, Release” catapults the movie into a slapstick adventure because Hank will do anything to remain in captivity rather than being returned to the wild. In order for this to happen, he needs a special tag marking him to be shipped to a Cleveland aquarium, which Dory has and would gladly give him if he helps her find her parents.
Hank’s wide-ranging physical movements, which includes lots of shape- and color-shifting along with wry comments keenly delivered by O’Neill, generates most of the film’s laughs. Idris Elba and Dominic West also provide some humor in voicing a pair of lazy sea lions.
With the film’s title, it’s a given and not a spoiler that Dory will reunite with her parents, Charlie (Eugene Levy) and Jenny (Diane Keaton), but the fun, touching and poignant part is how they come together as one big family.
Finding Dory is a family-friendly movie that kids will love with even better animation than Finding Nemo, likable new characters, some very heart-felt scenes, but not as amazing and brilliant as the first movie.
“I’m very aware how beloved the first film is, and I’m very grateful for that,” Stanton recently said of the new undersea voyage. “You don’t think you are necessarily striking lighting twice all the time. The only thing I could put my chips in was that it was a story that I would emotionally want to tell even if there wasn’t a film before it. I sat on this idea internally for close to a year, letting only a few people know I was thinking about it. I knew the minute it got out I wouldn’t be able to put the horse back in the barn.”
Translation, Dory just had to keep swimming for this sequel to happen.
Content Watch: While Finding Nemo was rated G, Finding Dory is rated PG for mild thematic elements. There is at least one frightening and intense scene, which features a large squid attacking Marlin and Nemo that could be scary for small children. There is talk of worshiping a fish. Overall, the film is very kid friendly and adults will get a snicker or two from some cultural references.
Eric Tiansay is a freelance writer for Charismamag.com.