Who isn't ambivalent about the idea of a Pixar sequel? Sure, sometimes it works. But the studio is so adept at producing fantastic original material that I want to scream, You've got the talent, you've got the money, you've got the audience's good will – why waste time rehashing the old when you could be taking more risks? The answer, of course, lies within the Pixar/Disney bank account.
The opening minutes of Finding Dory gave me a bad feeling. Taking place just a year after 2004's Finding Nemo, it was all too familiar: the ocean setting, the characters, the toddler-friendly humor. Then Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), the friendly blue tang afflicted with short-term memory loss, arbitrarily recalls that she lost her parents when she was a baby, so she sets off to find them – and my reaction was, Oh God, who cares? Dory's dippy character was a great foil for the uptight clownfish Marlin (Albert Brooks) in Nemo, but I was reluctant to buy her as the star of her own show – and her Memento-like struggles not to forget seem more painful than funny. It's like trying to make a comedy about someone with Alzheimer's.
Fortunately, just ten minutes into the picture, our heroes have already zoomed across the Pacific Ocean (thanks to those turtle dudes) and arrived at Dory's destination, Morro Bay's fictional Marine Life Institute, where the bulk of the film takes place. The change in scenery brings about new characters, new goals, and new obstacles. If the story sacrifices emotional resonance for fast-paced adventure, at least it's still inventive and fun.
This isn't classic Pixar, but it's solid Pixar. Though it may add little depth to the characters or their world, Finding Dory is still a sequel with its own distinct identity and narrative, and for me, for now, that's good enough.