For years, Finding Dory was a sequel that wasn’t going to happen. Then inspiration struck director Andrew Stanton, and the result is a movie that maybe shouldn’t have happened after all. This is a sweet, occasionally funny, and sometimes tedious sequel to Pixar Animation’s 2003 breakout hit Finding Nemo; you will enter with great excitement and exit with mild disappointment.

Everyone’s favorite blue tang fish, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), misses her parents. The film opens with young Dory (Sloane Murray) and her lovingly patient parents (Eugene Levy, Diane Keaton) as they try to teach her how to always get back home to their reef. Being the forgetful fish that she is, Dory loses
them anyway.

Flip to present day: She lives a cozy life with Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence), but can’t shake the desire to find her long-lost parents. This takes her, Marlin and Nemo on an adventure to the Marine Life Institute, where she thinks she last saw her folks. Numerous newfound friends assist in her quest, including octopus Hank (Ed O’Neil), whale shark Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), beluga whale Bailey (Ty Burrell), and two sea lions — Fluke (Idris Elba) and Rudder (Dominic West).

Stanton’s screenplay is episodic; it sends Dory on a seemingly endless journey that she sometimes forgets why she’s questing — meaning we can’t trust what she thinks or says. Therefore, as Dory, Marlin and Nemo move from one detour to the next, it doesn’t feel like they’re moving forward or getting any closer to Dory’s parents. Every obstacle they could possibly face, they do; as a result, the ending is arbitrary and anticlimactic — it’s necessary and inevitable rather than earned and organic. Children may not notice this, but it’ll be painfully obvious to parents trying to keep the kids interested.

Still, the animation is superb, especially in 3D — the water flows around the fish with almost surreal calm, always a bit darker and murkier than the more crisp and clear fresh air. The detail on the animals is also impressive, especially on Hank, who’s a mimic octopus (actually a septopus — he’s missing a tentacle), able to camouflage into his surroundings at a moment’s notice to remain inconspicuous. Pixar animators called Hank the hardest character they’ve ever worked on, and given the many changes he makes to blend in, and the way he moves, it’s easy to see why.

Finding Dory is far from a total bust, and clearly — clearly — this isn’t just a selfish cash grab like many sequels are. It doesn’t even set up for a third movie, and considering the avarice that governs Hollywood, that deserves credit. If only it was actually better on its own. You want it to be good, and you may lie to yourself and think it’s higher quality than it actually is. It’s enjoyable, but needed
to  be better.