As the much anticipated sequel to Pixar’s Finding Nemo, Finding Dory follows the ocean-dwelling trio of the first film as the titular forgetful blue tang (Ellen Degeneres) goes on a long distance journey to find her parents. Ever-grumpy clownfish Marlin (Albert Brooks) and his son Nemo (Hayden Rolence) follow just a few steps behind as they encounter (and re-encounter) other aquatic animals along the way, such as sleepy sea lions, surfer dude turtles, and a literally loony loon. The heroes eventually find themselves at a massive marine conservatory that they must navigate with the help of Hank (Ed O’Neill), a sneaky, self-seeking octopus; Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), a shortsighted whale shark; and Bailey (Ty Burrell), an echolocation-challenged beluga in order to track down Dory’s parents. In the end, Dory’s knack in remaining positive, taking risks, and her ability to “just keep swimming” overcomes her apparent weakness in retaining short-term memory and helps the trio through all manners of challenges as they learn that being different can be a strength.
Dory is clearly a retread of Nemo in terms of themes, story, and characters. Bringing back elements of finding one’s family, the vastness and diversity of the ocean, even Marlin’s eventual realization that he was wrong in being patronizing and overprotective of his loved ones, Dory is preoccupied with the past. The film also relies a LOT on flashbacks, which can be very annoying for pacing, especially when most of the flashbacks return to the same event each time. Original elements like the quirky characters in and around the marine life institute (which in itself is a whole new, visually inventive set piece) have to fight for screen time as Marlin and Nemo have their own dialogue-heavy adventure and detract from Dory, who arguably should be the protagonist of the movie but spends a lot of time in the back channels (pardon the pun) of the institute. Dory struggles to remain interesting as her forgetfulness means that her purpose often falls by the wayside and the storyline becomes stagnant at times. The film's jokes, lessons, and emotional beats are simpler and less well-earned. Although perfectly fine for entertaining small children, Dory would have been more interesting if Dory was a stronger character to build a movie on and if the story wasn’t basically a rehash of the first movie with an overly long ending.
Rating: 3 out of 5 intercom announcements by Sigourney Weaver