A year after Dory helped find Nemo, she begins to remember her family and decides to go in search of them. But when she is captured and brought to a California aquarium and rehabilitation center, her quest seems to have come to an abrupt end. Fortunately, Dory has the faithful Marlin and Nemo, as well as other new friends, on her side.
Finding Dory brings back many of the old characters from Finding Nemo and inserts just the right number of allusions to help bridge this story and the last. However, ultimately the film stands on its own, rightly choosing to focus on Dory and her development rather than relying on old characters to carry the narrative. As the protagonist of her story, Dory is smart, fun, and funny–and, of course, completely endearing. And she brings to her new tale the type of wild unexpectedness only Dory could deliver.
Finding Dory cleverly distances itself from its predecessor by choosing not to repeat the narrative of a trip across the ocean. Instead, most of the film takes place in a California aquarium and rehabilitation center. This calls for a lot of imagination on the part of the storytellers, who have to move fish around a public park when not all the exhibits are connected to each other by water. The ingenuity of both the writers and the characters never ceased to delight me; I loved wondering how Marlin, Nemo, and Dory would get out of each new predicament.
Helping them, of course, is a host of new characters, all delightful in their own way, from the cheerful Destiny to the somewhat cranky Hank. This cast brings a lot of humor to the story and Hank in particular creates a lot of visual jokes for viewers to enjoy. Particularly enjoyable is watching each new character react to Dory and her crazy ideas.
In true Pixar fashion, however, this wild romp of a movie also brings the heart, and I found myself crying several times. The movie is ultimately about family and what that means (as well as, of course, about the need for wildlife conservation). Even if the end is predictable, that doesn’t mean it is isn’t moving.
Not all sequels live up to their predecessors. Finding Dory may not be perfect, but it has enough heart, humor, and pure inventiveness for it to stand on its own as an excellent movie.