Finding Nemo 2 -- or as you may know it, Finding Dory -- is no Cars 2.
Over a decade after Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) went forth and found Nemo, the duo teams up again to find someone else. If you're groaning already imagining the usual sequel pitfalls that Pixar could fall into with that loose logline, know that first of all, it's actually not Dory that needs finding. It's her parents. (The title is more of a ~metaphor~.) And this journey was well worth the wait.
Below, six reasons the sequel succeeds so well, with only very minor spoilers included.
1. It's equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming. Finding Dory naturally shares a lot of DNA with its predecessor, but if you were to compare it to more recent Pixar fare, it is a balanced mix of Inside Out's humor and heart with The Good Dinosaur's ohmygodwhycantIstopcrying?!?
Whereas Dory's short-term memory loss was mostly played as a gimmick for laughs in the first film, it's fully fleshed out here and lends pathos to this movie that was absent before. Watching Dory aimlessly, sometimes hopelessly, trying to just keep swimming as she struggles to remember what she can't is devastating to watch. That she chooses to do it just makes you love her more.
2. It takes what you loved about Finding Nemo, without redoing Finding Nemo. Some familiar ground is retread at the beginning of the movie -- including an expected and sweetly brief cameo by Crush and Squirt, the gnarliest turtles in the ocean -- but Finding Dory quickly sets out in a new direction. This isn't a case of, "Oh boy! We lost someone...again!"
In fact, the majority of the movie leaves the wide open sea behind for the Marine Life Institute. With the new locale comes opportunity for new obstacles and new gags, eliminating the need to drudge up sunken ships filled with sharks or jelly fish landmines. A personal favorite? When the touch pool transforms into a monster movie battlefield and you see the hilarious fate that befalls one poor starfish.
3. There are jokes for adults, too! Much of the more risqué humor in Finding Nemo revolved around fart jokes -- plus an extended Alcoholics Anonymous bit that surely went over most toddlers' heads -- but in the sequel, wink-wink-nudge-nudge humor is built in for parents and more mature fans in the audience, alike.
Like when Dory loses her train of thought discussing her parents and mistakenly begins explaining how babies are made to Nemo and his friends. Unless you have a very sex-positive 6-year-old, they're likely not going to appreciate that goof.
4. Come for Dory, stay for those two random fish from the first few minutes of the movie. The sequel impressively builds out its cast with the inclusion of Ed O'Neil's curmudgeony septopus and Ty Burrell's neurotic beluga whale, among others, but it's the bit players who steal the show.
Idris Elba and Dominic West are particularly charming as a couple of sea lions that would seem more at home in a pub than on a rock in a bay, while Bill Hader and Kate McKinnon's sole scene as married fish who can't stop bickering long enough to help young Dory deserves its own sequel. Yes, that's Bill Hader and Kate McKinnon! That's why they sound so familiar!
Then there's the Sigourney Weaver cameo, which is just too clever to spoil here.
5. Baby Dory is ADORABLE. We know Hollywood is an ageist industry that makes it hard for actresses over a certain age to find worthy roles -- even if that role is voicing a fish -- so this is no knock on grown woman Dory. But c'mon. Get out of here with that adorable little fish in the flashbacks. Baby Dory may be cuter than Nemo. She may even be cuter than the otters, whose inclusion in the movie is literally to be cute. (That's their plotline and character motivation.)
And the only thing cuter than baby Dory, is...
6. Piper. Of Piper, the short film that plays ahead of Finding Dory. Piper is a sandpiper -- clever -- and not for one second during the short's run did I stop saying "Aww!" with varying degrees of volume and inflection. ("aww" "AwWw" "AWWww" "aw"). It says something about Finding Dory that I enjoyed it as much as I did, even after watching Piper. Which retroactively says something about how great Piper is.
Finding Dory hits theaters on June 17.
Find out who Ed O'Neill was surprised to learn was in the movie with him in the video below.