With sequels, one of the primary concerns isn’t necessarily whether it’ll be good or not, it’s whether or not it will taint my love for the original or if it’ll add to it instead. Such is the case with Finding Dory, a sequel to Pixar’s very successful and beautifully made Finding Nemo. The successor is 13 years in the making and, while it brings back some familiar faces, it feels fresh and engaging, but still manages to make us feel like we’re visiting with old friends.
One year after Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) find Nemo (Hayden Rolence), Dory remembers that she lost her parents (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy). Somehow, a few years back, and due to short term memory loss, Dory found herself wandering the ocean alone. Not knowing where she comes from or how she got to where she is now, Dory spends a lot of time searching for the parents she lost, as well as forgetting she lost them to begin with. Once she remembers she forgot her parents, she takes a journey that sets her on the path to California, where her parents are housed in the Marine Life Institute.
Of course, Marlin and Nemo tag along, helping Dory and making sure she doesn’t get lost. The film doesn’t spend too long on the journey getting to the Marine Life Institute, where Sigourney Weaver’s voice hilariously plays over the intercoms, but it’s rather about the adventure Dory experiences while there. Befriending a cranky and bitter octopus named Hank (Ed O’Neill), whose primary goal is to find himself in quarantine and on the next truck to Cleveland, Dory finds herself recalling her childhood at every turn and scouring the institute’s every corner looking for her family. But is she too late?
Going into the movie without enormously high expectations is difficult. Thankfully, Finding Dory is as adorable as it looks and strikes all the right chords. The themes of letting go are still there, but it’s the particular theme of being a part of a family, even though there is no DNA relation, that is what really pulls at the heartstrings. Young Dory’s scenes with her parents are precious and if Disney and Pixar get anything right, it’s the astoundingly lovable portrayals of the younger versions of their characters. Young Dory is just as doe-eyed and her personality full of wonder and openness. Adult Dory is the same, which is why it’s so easy to love her and understandable why even the most cantankerous characters are drawn to her positive energy.
The film draws a bit from its predecessor, but it’s brave enough to go out on its own and bring in new characters. Only two characters outside of the main cast of fish make brief appearances. This shows that Pixar isn’t willing to rely on what worked before. And even though Finding Nemo‘s supporting characters are beloved, this is a new journey and their presence wouldn’t have worked within the scope of this film’s premise. New and fun-loving characters like Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), a near-sighted and happy whale, and Bailey (Ty Burrell), a disheartened whale who’s lost his talent, fill in the space with their grand and memorable presence.
The CGI animation is beautiful. The 3D effects makes it all the more eye-popping. The Pixar team makes even the emptiness of certain parts of the ocean look both wondrous and irksome all at once. The visuals are further reinforced and more appreciated because the film aims to tell a story that is heartwarming, engaging, funny, and touching in ways that made Finding Nemo so memorable. And with a great and simple story, gorgeous visuals, and adorable characters, Finding Dory makes for a worthy sequel.
Finding Dory opens nationwide June 17, 2016.
Photos courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.