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Sequel ‘Finding Dory’ places Pixar in familiar territory

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Finding Dory

Three and a half stars

Finding Dory Voices of Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence. Directed by Andrew Stanton. Rated PG. Opens Friday citywide.

In the 13 years since Finding Nemo was released, Pixar has made incredible leaps in the technology used to create animated films, as evidenced by the astounding photorealistic animation in “Piper,” the short film that precedes Nemo sequel Finding Dory. The company’s storytelling techniques, however, have remained largely unchanged, which means that while Dory is thoroughly charming and enjoyable, it’s also a bit formulaic and repetitive, especially during the drawn-out third act. Anyone who’s seen and loved Finding Nemo will find plenty to like about Dory, which comes from original director and co-writer Andrew Stanton. But from a company once known for its relentless innovation, pleasant sequels like Dory are a bit of a disappointment.

Set one year after the events of Nemo, Dory catches up with clownfish Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks), his formerly missing son Nemo (Hayden Rolence) and Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a blue tang who helped Marlin find Nemo and suffers from short-term memory loss. After recovering one of her dormant memories, Dory becomes determined to travel across the ocean to reunite with her long-lost parents.

Thus the plot is very similar to the first movie, although Dory skips over the long ocean journey and brings the three main characters right to the Marine Life Institute, where they immediately end up separated and must enlist the help of various other aquatic creatures to reconnect with each other and to find Dory’s parents. Those supporting characters are often quite funny, and the plot has some nice (if familiar) lessons about family and self-confidence. Although the animation is a little less sophisticated (in keeping with the style of the earlier movie), it’s still frequently gorgeous. Nearly everything about the movie hits the right marks, but never goes beyond that. Pixar has spent more than two decades perfecting its approach to moviemaking, and it seems increasingly less willing to shake things up.

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