Finding Nemo is my favorite Pixar movie. It’s sweet, funny, heartbreaking, and thoughtful. It makes me tear up every time at “When I’m with you, I’m home.” For a film that’s renowned as ones that kids watch incessantly, you could do far worse. But that also leads to huge expectations for its sequel, Finding Dory. Thankfully, director Andrew Stanton’s follow-up is a heartwarming, hysterical, and joyous ride. While it may not quite reach the heights of its predecessor, Finding Dory manages to be a worthy successor to the original.
Picking up one year after the events of the first movie, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) suddenly stumbles across a memory that she was meant to find her family. With the help of Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence), they make their way to a marine biology institute where they encounter all other sorts of sea life. When they get separated at the institute, Dory keeps working to try and find her parents while Marlin and Nemo try to reunite with their forgetful friend.
Stanton has an emotional shortcut in the sequel, and that’s using flashbacks to kid Dory (Sloane Murray). The sweetness and earnestness of young Dory almost feels like it was created in a lab specifically to make audiences cry. You’re essentially watching a child cope with their own mental illness and apologize to their parents for it. When she says lines like, “What if I forget you?” it’s hard to keep your tear ducts from working overtime.
Thankfully, the movie still has Pixar’s knack for humor (something that was sorely missing from their previous feature, The Good Dinosaur), and it’s buoyed by the introductions of terrific new characters like the octopus Hank (Ed O’Neill) and the whales Destiny (Kaitlin Olsen) and Bailey (Ty Burrell). These characters are just as endearing as the ones from the first movie, and they’re a welcome addition to Dory’s journey.
The movie also has great sympathy for the issue of mental health, and a touching message about not letting a handicap define you, but instead staying true to yourself. The line “What Would Dory Do?” gets mentioned again and again, and why it can be a bit heavy handed at times, it’s still an uplifting and mature message that’s important for younger audience members to hear.
If there’s a major problem with Finding Dory, it’s that it doesn’t swim as smoothly as Finding Nemo. Nemo is paced perfectly, but Dory works in fits and starts. There will be long sections without a joke, and then it will come along with something that’s incredibly funny. Also, Nemo and Marlin aren’t as strong a pairing as Dory and Marlin, but Dory makes for a great duo with Hank. It’s an erratic film, but not to the point where it goes off the rails.
Finding Dory may not be quite as good as Finding Nemo, but few films are. Nevertheless, it still carves out its own identity, and makes for a worthy Pixar movie that will do what we’ve come to expect from the studio’s films: make you laugh and cry in equal measure.