In a slow week for new movie openings—and an especially brutal week, for obvious reasons—Finding Dory will do very nicely. Pixar’s sequel to its 13-year-old hit Finding Nemo ($896 million at worldwide box-office, seriously?) doesn’t offer the psychological nuance of Inside Out or the subtle heartbreak of Up, let alone the sense of adventure, innovation and style of the 2003 original, but it’s visually spectacular—especially in 3D. And like its mentally addled heroine, Finding Dory is charming, very funny, touching and more than a bit repetitive but never a bore.
Directors Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane bring back Ellen DeGeneres (very nice work, of course) who voices the loveably ditzy black-and-blue tang who suffers—truly suffers this time—from short-term memory loss. Our forgetful heroine’s encounter with a stingray migration sparks memories of how she was separated as a young thing from her parents (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy). Teaming with her clownfish neighbor Marlin (Albert Brooks) and his son Nemo (Hayden Rolence), she journeys across the ocean to California and the Marine Life Institute to find the parents she believes are waiting for her.
Along the way, she encounters a snide octopus (Ed O’Neill, a scene-grabber), a laid-back pair of sea lions (Idris Elba and Dominic West), a beluga whale and a whale shark (Ty Burrell and Kaitlin Olson) and other beautifully animated denizens of the deep. But here’s the thing: Every creature Dory meets also struggles with a physical, social or mental challenge, and that gives the movie a stronger, sweeter punch. They’re all “different” and differently abled. The deck is stacked against them, the odds look impossible and they’re often insecure and scared as hell—but they coexist and triumph.
Guaranteed there will be few dry eyes in the house when Dory asks her parents, “What if I forget you? Will you forget me?” In a heinous and divisive week in America’s history, the message of Finding Dory goes straight to the heart and will be a balm to many.