Finding Dory (Cert PG)
1 Disc (Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment) Running Time: 97 minutes approx.
Sequels are tricky business in cinema, especially if the parent film was a colossal success like Pixar’s Finding Nemo was back in 2003. Taking the unusual route of waiting over a decade before returning to the ocean may have been a gamble or a stroke of genius, since Pixar has enough franchises to exploit along with standalone hits to increase their catalogue, while the original Nemo audience is all grown up now.
The other important factor in ensuring the success of a sequel is having a story that is equal to or better than the original – or in the case of Finding Dory, you can simply repeat what you did before. As the title makes obvious the small finned orange clownfish protagonist from before has been supplanted as the star of this tale by his blue tang friend Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres).
Dory, as fans of the first film will recall, suffers from short-term memory loss, yet she has faint memories of her parents Jenny (Diane Keaton) and Charley (Eugene Levy) whom she became separated from as a baby fish. After experiencing flashes of her childhood with her parents, Dory decides to find them, the only information she can recall is that their former home was in the Jewel of Morro Bay in California.
Nemo (Hayden Rolence) and his father Marlin (Albert Brooks) accompany Dory on her trip but are separated in California when Dory is scooped up by workers for a nearby Marine Life Institute. Inside the facility, Dory meets Hank (Ed O’Neill), a curmudgeonly red octopus with a missing tentacle who agrees to help Dory find her parents in exchange for her tag so he can be shipped off to Cleveland.
Perhaps the script is not a total retread of the first film in that the protagonist is on a mission to find someone rather than needing finding, but the general adventure aspect of getting back to the ocean from the land with the aid of other marine creatures clearly is. To their credit writers Andrew Stanton and Victoria Strouse have created a new cast to support the old favourites, but noticeably missing is an antagonist.
One might argue that the situation itself is the enemy, since Dory and co. are forced to navigate and survive in a world alien to theirs, with the ever present danger of being deprived of water – except inside a marine world compound they are never actually far from water. In essence the appeal is in the slapstick hijinks and comedy capers than ensue on the journey the fishy friends undertake and in that respect, there is plenty to enjoy here.
The reversing of roles from parental concern to offspring concern makes sense in broad terms but then again, one might assume this be reserved for Nemo to repay his father for the first film. Dory, it seems, proved to be enough of a fan favourite to warrant the spotlight this time around, and if we look beneath the joyful kiddie friendly veneer and lightweight entertainment there is a serious issue being addressed via Dory.
Her short-term memory loss puts Dory at a disadvantage against others, and while this lends itself to some typical comedy, Dory is essentially a child with a learning difficulty. This puts extra pressure on her parents whose raising of Dory requires patience and making many concessions in repeating the simplest of instructions to ensure her safety.
In one flashback, Dory hears her mother lamenting Dory’s future as an adult with them, this fateful moment being just prior to Dory being caught in an undertow and separated from her parents. We time skip to the moment from the first film where Dory and Marlin meet for the first time with this film being set one year later, with Dory now living with Marlin and Nemo.
Among the other newcomers to this aquatic universe are Bailey (Ty Burrell), a beluga whale struggling to master his sonar skills and Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), a nearsighted whale shark and childhood friend of Dory’s. They play a big part in helping Dory find her parents and make her return to the ocean while Nemo and Marlin encounter two sea lions (Idris Elba and Dominic West) and a swivel eyed common loon named Becky.
While they offer the most comic relief it is Hank who undergoes a personal journey of growth while helping Dory. Having negative memories of the sea, Hank wants to retire in a large aquarium in Cleveland but Dory tries to persuade him that the ocean is his true home which he refuses to accept. But they make a great comic team together, Hank’s droll cynicism and Dory’s blind enthusiasm making for amusing riffing, usually in the midst of a high-octane physical excursion.
True to the animation medium the visual gags supply the majority of laughs in this film, some subtle, some less so but there is never a dull moment, and we certainly aren’t overwhelmed by emotional manipulation in the quieter moments as is usually the want in Disney/Pixar films. For a change they let the audience assume their own emotional attachment to the sentiments it seeks to evoke.
Presenting us with an almost mystical neon lit world the undersea setting has the more cartoony feel to it yet the movements of the inhabitants and the marine plant life is stunningly observed and natural looking. Moving above surface and the replication of the water is utterly believable, along with the setting of the marine life institute, part theme park-part water world wonderland, given that sparkling Disney-esque glitz.
In truth Finding Dory doesn’t aspire to the heights of its predecessor or many other Pixar titles, making its £1 billion dollar gross a presumed reflection of the affection Finding Nemo has amassed over the years. But as sheer undemanding fun, family entertainment it unquestionably ticks all the boxes.
English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
English 5.1 DTS-HD
English 2.0 Descriptive Audio
Dutch, Flemish & Hindi 5.1 Dolby Digital
French 7.1 Dolby Digital
English HOH, Dutch and French Subtitles
Marine Life Interviews
The Octopus That Nearly Broke Pixar
What Were We Talking About?
Animation & Acting
Deep In The Kelp
Rating – *** ½
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