Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, with story by Stanton, Victoria Strouse and Bob Peterson
Directed by Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane
Starring Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O'Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Hayden Rolence, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Idris Elba, Sigourney Weaver and more
Grade: Four stars
Some things are worth the wait.
Thankfully, “Finding Dory” is on that list. The long-awaited sequel to the 2003 hit “Finding Nemo,” “Dory” has all the magic of its predecessor. It’s heartwarming, profound, hilarious, gorgeously animated and delightfully funny, serving as both a wonderful extension of the original and a story good enough to stand on its own.
That story involves Dory’s past, which is a big blank spot thanks to the fish’s short-term memory problems. Though the movie opens with a few snippets of that past, the bulk of the story starts a year after the events of “Finding Nemo.” An incident with Marlin and Nemo sparks a memory of Dory’s past, and she starts on an adventure to find the parents she lost.
Though it’s another journey for missing fish, the movie doesn’t feel like a retread of the original. Dory’s back story is a loose plot thread in the original, the absence of her family a point that deserves to be addressed properly. On a more practical level, the fact that the bulk of the adventure takes them through a marine rehabilitation center rather than a dentist’s office or the open ocean gives them an entirely new playground to have fun with. Andrew Stanton, the main creative force behind the first movie, clearly waited until he was sure he had a new story to tell.
Dory gets a little more depth than in the original, and of course more back story, but the growth is entirely natural given what we know of the character. Ellen DeGeneres still packs a lot of emotion into her voice work, making Dory seem innocent, but never dumb. Marlin and Nemo both have more minor roles here than in the original, though both Albert Brooks and Hayden Rolence have returned as voice actors and still manage to wonderfully communicate both the ups and downs of the parent-child bond.
The new characters are also a treat, though the best is an extremely grumpy octopus voiced by Ed O'Neill. Not only does his presence solve several practical narrative problems, but his interactions with Dory are both hilarious and oddly sweet (His feats, by the way, aren’t as ludicrous as you think. Once you’ve seen the movie, go home and Google “Octopus stories.” You’ll thank me).
This is definitely one of those movies where you need to stay in your seats all the way through the credits, both for the Finding Hank visual game and a special surprise at the very end. Even after they end, though, the magic will follow you all the way home.
The short film attached to “Finding Dory,” “Piper” follows an adorable sandpiper who is trying to figure out how to get clams while avoiding the big scary waves that keep sweeping in. The animation is just as exquisite as it is in “Dory,” possibly more so because it tilts a little further toward the realistic, and the plotline is so adorable I want to cuddle it.
The same is true for the main characters, the little sandpiper and a tiny creature that lives in a shell, and they’re both brimming with personality even though neither say a word. Overall, one of the best Pixar shorts out there.