Dory, the forgetful blue tang voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, served as the comic relief in 2003’s “Finding Nemo.” She couldn’t remember anything. It was funny. Audiences laughed.
When she’s introduced in “Finding Dory,” though, it’s as a baby, with a tiny voice and bulging eyes, who tells everyone she meets, “I suffer from short-term memebory loss.” Then she wanders away from her concerned parents (Eugene Levy, Diane Keaton), gets lost, is all alone, terrified, begging for help and … and … oh God! Who hurt you, Pixar?
Granted, “Finding Nemo” began with a fishtrocity that claimed the lives of Nemo’s mother and his 399 soon-to-be brothers and sisters. But that happened off camera. This is just devastating.
Before you can reach for the antidepressants, Dory’s all grown up and frolicking in the sea when she begins remembering snippets of her childhood and sets off — with Nemo (Hayden Rolence) and a reluctant Marlin (Albert Brooks) in tow — to find her family. When she’s “rescued” by workers at California’s Marine Life Institute, she searches the theme park for her family while Marlin and Nemo struggle to find a way to break her out.
Structurally, it’s pretty similar to “Finding Nemo,” and plenty of familiar characters turn up. But the animation strides made in the 13 years between movies are remarkable. “Finding Dory” looks spectacular.
Andrew Stanton (“Finding Nemo,” “WALL-E”), who wrote “Finding Dory” with Victoria Strouse and directed it with Angus MacLane, is finally out of movie jail after the 2012 live-action flop “John Carter.”
He’s assembled a talented cast of newcomers led by Ed O’Neill as the cranky octopus — err, septopus — Hank. His “Modern Family” co-star Ty Burrell voices Bailey the beluga whale, while Kaitlin Olson (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) portrays Destiny, a nearsighted whale shark.
For fans of “The Wire,” it’s nearly worth the price of admission just for the reunion of Idris Elba (Stringer Bell) and Dominic West (Jimmy McNulty) as sea lions Fluke and Rudder.
And, as always, you should leap at any chance to marvel at the magic that is Albert Brooks.
“Finding Dory” goes on a bit long. Between the trailers and the charming short, “Piper,” that precedes it, you’re looking at trying to keep your little ones still for more than two hours. The movie also takes some extreme liberties with fish and the water they need to survive. Parents, you might want to put a padlock on your aquariums.
These are minor quibbles, though, because“Finding Dory” is a must-sea.
Contact Christopher Lawrence at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @life_onthecouch
Movie: “Finding Dory”
Running time: 103 minutes
Rating: PG; mild thematic elements
Now playing: At multiple locations