The film starts with a young Dory (Sloane Murray) in her home with her parents Jenny and Charlie (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy).
They help her as she deals with her short-term memory loss. Dory notices the undertow near their home, but her parents warn her to stay away from it. They make up a rhyme that Dory forgets. Dory worries that she'll forget her parents. They hug her and assure her she won't.
A fish couple (Kate McKinnon and Bill Hader) are swimming together when they hear Dory calling for help. She's been separated from her parents and has no idea where they went or how to find them. The couple tries helping her, but Dory disappears. The years pass, and Dory (now played by Ellen Degeneres) keeps asking other fish to help her find her family until the day she bumps into Marlin (Albert Brooks) after he lost Nemo (Hayden Rolence).
A year after Nemo was found, Dory has been living with him and Marlin by the sea anemone. She wakes both of them up to start the day. Dory and Marlin take Nemo to his class with Mr. Ray (Bob Peterson) and the other little fish. Mr. Ray brings the fish to watch a sting ray migration and mentions the undertow, which triggers a memory in Dory. She remembers her parents and how she was looking for them, but her only clue is a location called "the jewel of Morro Bay, California". Knowing California is all across the ocean, Marlin is none too keen on going all the way there to help Dory, but she pleads with him and asks if he knows what it's like to really miss someone. Marlin looks at Nemo and says yes. He says he knows a guy who can get them across the ocean.
The three join up with Crush (Andrew Stanton) and the other turtles as they ride the current to get them as far as they can. Once off the current, they come across a bunch of sunken ships. Dory starts calling out for her parents, when little hidden creatures start shushing her. This brings up another memory from when Dory was looking for her parents, but she can't remember why she had to be quiet. The reason turns out to be a large squid that chases after Dory, Marlin, and Nemo. Nemo is grabbed and is nearly eaten until the squid gets crushed under a freight container. Dory gets herself caught in plastic rings. Marlin angrily berates Dory for her actions and says she's only good at forgetting things. Dory swims away and hears the voice of Sigourney Weaver on the surface. When she swims up, she is scooped up by two people and placed into a cooler as Marlin and Nemo watch.
Dory is brought into the quarantine area of the Marine Life Institute. She gets a tag placed on her fin. An octopus named Hank (Ed O'Neill) crawls around trying to get to Dory's bowl. He tells her she is in Morro Bay, meaning she is one step (or swim) closer to her parents. Hank sees Dory's tag and thinks it's his ticket out of there because he knows tagged fish get sent to an aquarium in Cleveland, which is where he'd rather be since he has bad memories of living in the ocean. They see a map of the institute's park, where Dory notices the Open Ocean exhibit having a purple shell, which she remembers was a favorite of her mom's. Hank and Dory agree to help each other out, so he scoops her out in a coffee pot and sneaks out of the room.
Marlin and Nemo try to find a way to reach Dory. They meet two sea lions, Fluke and Rudder (Idris Elba and Dominic West), who lay happily perched on their rock, until they are bothered by a goofy sea lion named Gerald. They tell Marlin that Dory is in quarantine, and there's only one way to reach her. A flock of loons come down, but Fluke and Rudder pick out a specific one they call Becky to help Marlin and Nemo get there. After earning Becky's trust, she scoops up Marlin and Nemo in a bucket and flies over to the park.
Dory and Hank are almost out until Dory flops into a bucket labeled "Destiny", taking it literally as she thinks it'll lead her to where she wants to go. She is surrounded by dead fish and is then tossed into an exhibit belonging to an extremely near-sighted whale shark whose name is Destiny (Kaitlin Olson). She and Dory speak whale to each other, leading Destiny to recognize Dory from her childhood since they communicated through a pipe. Dory also meets a beluga whale named Bailey (Ty Burrell), who is self-conscious about his swollen head and has trouble with echolocation. Hank crawls into the tank as Destiny and Bailey try to help Dory on her quest.
Dory and Hank find an empty baby carriage and use it to ride through the park without drawing too much attention to themselves. Dory reads the signs to guide her to the Open Ocean exhibit, but she ends up leading Hank toward "the most powerful glasses in the world" after remembering something Bailey said regarding that phrase. They end up bumping into a child who spills her popcorn, leading some birds, including Becky, to pick at it. Becky drops her bucket on a tree, leaving Marlin and Nemo hanging until they are flung out of the bucket and into a display outside the gift shop.
Meanwhile, Dory and Hank end up in the kid zone where they are dropped into a tank filled with little sea creatures that the kids start grabbing, which horrifies the fish. After Dory remembers to "just keep swimming" (which she learned from her parents), she guides Hank toward the area where children like to poke the creatures. Hank inks the water, scaring the children away. They then spot the Open Ocean exhibit. Hank uses his camouflage to sneak up top to drop Dory into the exhibit. They say goodbye, with Hank appearing to have grown fond of Dory.
Marlin tries to find a way out of the display. He thinks of what Dory would do, bringing him and Nemo to realize that Dory would spot the first thing she sees and use it to her advantage. Marlin sees a bunch of little geysers that lead to a tide pool. He and Nemo hop out of the display and use the geysers to hop into the tide pool.
Dory swims down the exhibit and sees what looks like her home, but her parents aren't there. She sees a trail of shells that lead to a pipe. Two little crabs tell Dory that the blue tangs like her were brought to quarantine. They tell her to use the pipes to get home, which reminds Dory of how she got lost: she remembers seeing Jenny crying over something regarding Dory. Little Dory went to get a purple shell to cheer her up, but she was pulled by the undertow.
As Dory tries to navigate her way through the pipes, she ends up lost until she hears Destiny's voice. They communicate as Bailey tries using echolocation to figure out where Dory is and how she can get to quarantine. Bailey spots something headed Dory's way, thinking it's a predator fish, but it's really Marlin and Nemo. With Bailey and Destiny's help, they make it back to quarantine and run into Hank. They find the tank of blue tangs and make it in there. The other fish recognize Dory as Jenny and Charlie's child. They say that Jenny and Charlie were in the same facility looking for Dory, but that was years ago, and they're gone now. Dory thinks it means her parents are dead, and as she tries to gather her thoughts, Hank scoops her out, but he drops her down a drain as he, Marlin, Nemo, and all the other fish are prepared to be taken away to Cleveland.
Dory slides down the drain and finds herself back in the ocean. It's dark and barely visible. Dory sees a trail of shells, which she remembers as the thing her parents used to let her find her way home. Sure enough, Dory finds her old home with other shell trails leading to it. Dory then sees two fish swimming her way. It's Jenny and Charlie. The two are elated to be reunited with Dory. Dory then remembers that her friends are in trouble, and she brings her parents along to go find them.
Dory calls upon Bailey and Destiny, who both leap from their exhibits back into the ocean to help her. They find the truck with all the fish on the freeway. Dory finds a group of sea otters to help her. Destiny flips Dory toward the truck as the otters stop traffic with their cuteness (literally). Dory makes her way into the truck, allowing Marlin to call Becky for help. She scoops out Marlin and Nemo, but Dory and Hank are still left in the truck. The drivers clear the otters away and then continue forward. Becky drops Marlin and Nemo into the ocean to meet Jenny and Charlie.
Hank scares the drivers out of the truck, so he and Dory hijack the truck and drive back from where they came. They drive toward a police blockade, forcing them to drive another way. They end up driving the truck off a cliff and into the ocean, freeing all the fish into the water.
Dory returns home with Marlin and Nemo, now joined by Jenny, Charlie, Destiny, Bailey, and even Hank, who has decided to stay in the ocean. Along with Destiny and Bailey, Hank has joined Nemo's school to teach. Dory then swims out by the coral reef with Marlin to enjoy the view.
After the credits, the Tank Gang swims past Fluke and Rudder's rock as they relax, still in their bags after their escape. They are quickly scooped up by two institute employees to be taken to quarantine. Gerald then sneaks onto the rock behind Fluke and Rudder.
*CUT TO THE CHASE*
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Dory manages to remember much of her past and ultimately reunites with her mother and father. With the help of her new friends and self-confidence, she saves Nemo, Hank, Marlin and the rest of the animals bound for Cleveland. The film ends with Dory living happily back at the reef with Nemo, Marlin, Hank and her parents.
(Thanks, Evan B)
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