Finding Dory is a fantastic sequel. It's not as good as Finding Nemo, but comes pretty darn close. The story is incredibly imaginative with just the right amount of humor and sentiment. The new characters are so entertaining, even the ones that have minimal screen time. Every piece of the film really stands up to be counted. Pixar has once again proven that they are the kings of animation.
Finding Dory takes place a year after the events of the first film. Dory (Ellen Degeneres) has settled into an idyllic life with Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence). A random event stirs Dory's memories of her childhood. She recounts a strange phrase, then in true Dory fashion, forgets it immediately. Luckily, Nemo is nearby and remembers it. They deduce it is a clue to her birthplace. Marlin is through with cross sea adventures, but Nemo reminds him what Dory did to rescue him. As the trio embarks on the quest for Dory's parents, they get separated. The journey to find each other results in a host of wonderful new friends. Including a cranky, but kind hearted octopus (Ed O'Neil), a near-sighted whale (Diane Keaton), and the oddest duck to grace the silver screen.
The screenplay by writer/director Andrew Stanton and Victoria Strouse is beautiful. Pixar loves to make you cry. You could create a waterfall of tears from Up, Toy Story 3, and last year's animation bummer, Inside Out. This time around they strike the perfect chord. Loss, the love of family, cherishing your friends, these are great lessons, but can easily be sappy; especially in a kids movie. The genius is that its not. The filmmaker's blend emotion with laughs and wonder for the perfect happiness smoothie. It also helps that the characters are so well established. The otters probably have three minutes on screen, but are remarkably memorable. The writing is so good here.
The one thing that didn't quite meet my expectations was the quality of the CGI. Let me be clear this is a minor, ant-sized bone to pick. Finding Dory looks almost exactly like Finding Nemo. It still looks amazing, but Nemo came out thirteen years ago. It's a little surprising that the animation wasn't blow your skirt off eye-popping, but I don't think that was really what the studio was focused on. The story is so layered and deep, the artistry probably was second fiddle. Once again, a nitpicking critique that shouldn't dissuade anyone from seeing this film.
I didn't have a clue where the story was taking me as I watched this film. Every scene was delightful. This is because Dory is such a wonderful character. She's the unexpected, the bow-tied box before you open it. Marlin has a great monologue where he explains why Dory is so important to them. In life, you sometimes take for granted friends who are a little too idiosyncratic. But then they are almost always the most fun, adventurous people. Finding Dory tops off the happiness smoothie with that little cherry. Dory has a terrible memory and gets into a whole lot of trouble, but why would you want her any other way. Finding Dory is a must see and has, quite possibly, the best celebrity cameo ever.