Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar                97Mins                    PG

Dory, the Blue Tang fish, may suffer from short term memory loss. But audiences will never forget the spectacular animation and characters Pixar brings the screen in this sequel to 2003’s Finding Nemo.

In this saga, which takes place six months after the events of Finding Nemo, Dory’s long lost memories of loving and nurturing parents (voiced by Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy) are re-kindled. Ellen DeGeneres is back as the lovable character she says she was surprised was to have her own story 9 years later. Director/Screenwriter, Andrew Stanton, praises DeGeneres’ talent. “She makes things that you don’t think are meant to be funny, funny!”

Dory enlists both Marlin and Nemo to help her put her family back together with another cross-ocean quest. Along the way she meets some amazing new friends, like Modern Family’s Ty Burrell as Charlie, the beluga whale who thought he lost his echo location, and the near-sighted whale, Destiny, played by Kaitlin Olson. They help Dory by tackling impossible obstacles, but you kind of expect that when you buy the ticket!

Pixar continues as the Gold Standard for CG animation and Finding Dory raises the bar even higher. The animators have managed to make the scenery both above and below the waterline so vibrant and lifelike that it seems they go out of their way to make the main characters like Dory and Hank more cartoonish with ping pong eyeballs and other exaggerated characteristics so you’ll be reminded that, as beautiful as it is, they’re in a make-believe world.

They fill the screen with so much detail, color and life the animators had to devise a plan to make sure the audience could always find the main character in the frame. Production Designer, Steve Pilcher says they went through every shot to make sure colors didn’t conflict with the main character Andrew Stanton wanted us to focus on in each scene.  And the music, harkening back to the themes in the first film by composer Thomas Newman. He and Stanton wanted the music to complement the animation and “underline the humor and pathos.”

This film was originally set to take place in an aquatic park (like SeaWorld), but after the documentary Blackfish was screened for the Pixar staff they changed the setting to a Marine Biology Institute. One fun surprise is the narration for the exhibits at the Institute comes in the voice of Sigourney Weaver!

The characters and the comedy, not heart tugs, carry this film. It’s definitely not as emotionally engaging as the original. That said, two fun comedic characters are Idris Elba and Dominic West as Fluke and Rudder. They’re a couple of sea lions lounging outside the Marine Biology Institute dispensing their wisdom and hilariously protecting their warm rock from odd-sea lion-out, Gerald.

They are fun, but the biggest laughs come from Hank (Modern Family’s, Ed O’Neill), the gruff, grumpy Septopus. We don’t know how he lost that 8th leg. But the animation that went into Hank’s tentacles and the fluidity of his movement is astounding! The suckers grasping the glass of a tank or the transitions as he morphs from one object to another are so intricate it’s reason enough to want to see him in this movie more than once.

All Hank wants is to live out his life alone in a tank in Cleveland. Dory has the tag that’s would be his ticket the solitary life he desires. She strikes the deal that gets him to Cleveland…if he’ll help find her Mom and Dad.

All Pixar films start with a simple story based on pure, innocent emotion. And no character is more simple, pure and innocent than the adorably clueless Dory. She is just that, but in such a sweet unassuming, trusting way. It’s not hard to see why Dory has over 25 million Likes on Facebook.

Is this movie worth your bucks? While we think Finding Dory is a technical and comedic success, we have to point out where this movie falls short. The emotional punch that every Pixar film strives to deliver just missed the mark here. Dory’s happy childhood flashbacks just never rise to the level of other Pixar heart-tugging moments like Carl & Ellie’s love story in Up, or when we fear that WALL-E doesn’t remember Eve. When we fail to emotionally connect to Dory’s trying to find her parents, the ultimate reunion makes less of an impact.

For the sheer scope of what the Pixar Team has put on screen, we think Finding Dory has to be on the list of the top 5 movies to see this summer. Even though the film is rated PG there’s no reason not to bring the little ones. And there's a good message for kids to accept and help friends like Dory who has memory loss, or Destiny and Charlie who have other challenges.  

This is one colorful production that fills the 3-D palette quite nicely. Even though we didn’t find it necessary to break out the hankies for this one there are lots of laughs, particularly in the first half of the film. And stay through the credits, if you can, for a final kicker. There’s lots of treasure buried in the ocean, and Dory will find plenty of it at the box office.