Thirteen years ago, “Finding Nemo” made my wife, my kids and me laugh and wander through the house for weeks quoting the film. Pixar has found a formula that works well, and they stick to it fairly strictly. Keep the plot simple enough for kids, but interesting enough so adults aren’t bored. Make the animation as intricate as possible so that it doesn’t look cheap and holds up to repeated viewings. Lastly, have characters that seem fleshed-out, rather than one note. With “Finding Dory,” Pixar has made an enjoyable movie yet again. It would be easy to make a fish with short-term memory loss a one-note character. Fortunately, the titular Pacific Blue Tang (voiced by the always enjoyable Ellen DeGeneres) is not.
You probably know the plot: Dory remembers she has a family, and ends up in all sorts of wacky, sometimes dangerous, situations. Of course she meets up with old friends and some oddball new characters on the way. Crush the surfer dude turtle makes an appearance. Returning also are Albert Brooks as Merlin. Nemo is back, too, in a supporting role. Other voices thrown in for good measure are Ed O’Neill (as Hank, the curmudgeon of an octopus, or septopus since he is missing a tentacle), Idris Elba, Eugene Levy, Sigourney Weaver and Diane Keaton. The film follows Dory on her search for home and a reunion with mom and dad.
There are salutes to past Pixar films, like a Pizza Planet Truck in a wrecked sunken state appearing where Dory, Marlin and Nemo encounter the Giant Squid, and again on the Freeway, passing by the Truck heading to Cleveland. Also, the tags on the sea lions, Rudder and Fluke, have “A1” and “13” on their tails. “A113” has so far appeared in all Pixar movies, as a reference to the Cal Arts room where many of the Pixar Studios animators attended class. There are others, some subtle, some obvious: I will leave those to you to figure out. There is also the voice of John Ratzenburger, a staple of every Pixar film.
“Finding Dory” is the seventeenth feature released by Pixar and co-directors Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane keep the action moving, the jokes flowing and the story filled with enough tension to keep kids interested, even though it cannot come as a mystery to anyone who has ever sat through a Pixar film that there is a happy ending. The happy ending isn’t a bad thing; the message that family is not just who you are related to it’s who you make a connection with is important enough to justify watching. The fact that the animation is fluid (no pun intended, I realize most of the film deals with water) and has depth is a major selling-point too. If you liked “Finding Nemo,” this will fit comfortably on the DVD shelf as a companion and worthy follow-up.