Finding Dory delivers an entertaining story and a topical message.

I never got around to watching the Pixar fish story Finding Nemo, so I was not necessarily the ideal audience for the sequel Finding Dory.  At least I didn't think I was when my homegirl asked me to attend a press screening and review the movie for Jedi Goddess Presents.  Still, we all know I love me some Pixar, so I welcomed the chance to watch their latest joint.

If you missed Finding Nemo like I did, you will be likewise unfamiliar with Dory, a perpetually enraptured and memory-challenged blue tang played by Ellen DeGeneres, who helped a fish named Marlin locate his missing son in that one.  But that's okay.  Finding Dory will set you straight on all that in the opening scenes.

While Dory's short-term memory loss served as a simple gag in Nemo, this time around it is the foundation of the story, which sensitively illustrates the realities of living with a disability.  Dory remembers that she long ago lost her parents, and with Nemo and Marlin in tow, dashes off on an epic journey across the sea in search of her true family and home.

All the characters in Dory are well-designed and animated, especially the color-changing, scene-stealing septopus Hank, voiced by veteran character actor Ed O'Neil (Married With Children). While the character designs in Dory lack the contemporary anthro cool-factor of recent animated smash Zootopia, they more than make up for it in other ways. The combination of sensitive human facial expressions and naturalistic animal movement infuses each character with soul. 

Character performances energize the narrative of Finding DoryDeGeneres gives a performance that is variously proud, exuberant, befuddled, and vulnerable, but never weak or entitled.  Finding Dory is not afraid to illustrate the ways in which our communities and families interact with our differently-abled members, whether good or bad.  As our society continues to fight the stigma associated with disability and mental health issues, Finding Dory will arm a generation with lots of teachable moments.

While not as strong as recent classics Up or Inside Out, Finding Dory is much better than what I would expect of a kid's movie or a sequel. Kicking tail at both, it more than meets Pixar's standard of excellence for animation and storytelling.  I was among those concerned that Disney would upset the apple cart at Pixar, but with the string of winners leading up to and including a sequel like Finding Dory, it appears that those concerns are best left forgotten.

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