Rating: 15/20 (Emma: 17/20; Buster: 20/20; Dylan: 13/20; Abbey: 17/20; Jennifer: 19/20)
Plot: Dory, a fish with short-term memory problems, tries to find her parents.
This delightful sequel isn't quite up there with Toy Story 3, but I like it better than the Monsters sequel, Toy Story 2, or obviously Cars 2. I guess all you really want with a sequel for a beloved movie that has beloved characters is that it respects the original. This one does that. Pixar does a good job not forcing all these references to Finding Nemo in this one although there are a few recurring characters, explanations for some lines/songs or character traits from the first story, and some very familiar moments. There's a moment where Marlin turns a little nasty, but it's used to show the character's growth which was nice. Moving the setting from the vastness of the ocean to mostly a marine life institute was a nice touch that helped this not be a complete retread of the first movie, and the new characters--especially Ed O'Neil's cantankerous octopus--are fun.
Like a lot of Pixar climaxes, you have to let yourself go with the flow and remember that it's all a cartoon. The you-can't-fly-a-house-to-South-America people or the why-would-Buzz-Lightyear-suddenly-be-able-to-actually-fly people aren't going to be able to sit and enjoy the last 15 minutes of this. To be honest, I'm not sure I did either although it was all so vivacious and whimsical that I had trouble not getting a kick out of it all on the big screen.
This is also a whole lot of Dory. I like Ellen DeGeneres and all, but Dory might have been the most annoying part of Finding Nemo. This uses flashbacks to get inside her head a little bit (an underwater animated Memento, I read somewhere), and the scenes with little Dory were just adorable. They really do a good job making her a sympathetic character, and it's impossible not to pull for the little fish.
It's hard for me to believe that Finding Nemo came out 13 years ago, a fact that makes me feel really old. This kind of animation has come a long way in 13 years. If you don't believe me, check out the ultra-realistic "Piper" short that precedes this feature. Finding Dory, however, doesn't differ stylistically or visually from its predecessor. I'm sure if I watched this again, I'd notice more details that prove the Pixar animators are really showing off, but none of it clashes with what was on the screen in the original. And that's a good thing.
With the marine life in these movies, you've got this blend of living things that are really mean to each other and really altruistic. Think of the greedy seagulls or crab guys or creepy bioluminescent thing and the dentist's aquarium fish or the whale or sea turtles in the first movie. You've got a similar mix of helpful and hateful characters in this movie, and I like the subtle message that sends youngsters watching this. That is, after all, how life works. Along with the more obvious themes, some which are delivered pretty hard, this really connects thematically.
So there's nothing revolutionary here, and you could probably argue that a sequel to Finding Nemo wasn't necessary at all. Still, this works as an action-comedy in the same way that first movie did, and it was great to reconnect with the old characters and meet a few new ones. It looks great, might make you laugh and/or cry, and has that ability to entertain both children and their parents. If nothing else, Pixar fans will have fun finding all the Easter eggs. There are lots of those.
I'm not sure who the hell they're going to have to find in the third movie in order to make this a trilogy.