UK Release Date: 29th July 2016
Runtime: 103 minutes
Director: Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane
Writer: Andrew Stanton, Victoria Strouse
Starring: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Hayden Rolence, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Sigourney Weaver
Synopsis: Remembering that she has parents whom she loves, Dory goes on a journey of her own to try to track down her family and reconnect with those who love her.
The sequel to Pixar’s Finding Nemo feels as if it has been in gestation for years. Director Andrew Stanton has been off making the terrible John Carter movie and Ellen DeGeneres has been off taking over the world via her chat show and stint as host of the Oscars. The stars have now aligned, however, and Finding Dory has arrived, creating a sequel to what is for my money the studio’s best film to date – a perfect culmination of the company’s key themes of heart, humour and thrills. For the most part, it’s a worthy successor.
Dory (DeGeneres) is living next door to Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence) as one of their closest friends, while still struggling with memory loss. While helping with one of Nemo’s classes, Dory has a flashback of her parents (Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy) and becomes determined to track them down. Separated from her friends at the Marine Life Institute, Dory enlists the help of grumpy octopus Hank (Ed O’Neill), near-sighted whale shark Destiny (Kaitlin Olson) and beluga whale Bailey (Ty Burrell) to help her find her parents and become reunited with Nemo and Marlin.
Finding Dory is a well-constructed animated comedy, delivered with the kind of flair and panache that we have come to expect from Pixar over the last 20 years. It’s a competently put together movie that fizzes with colour and energy, helped along by the residual affection for the characters in the 13 years since the first film came into cinemas. Unfortunately, it lacks the unmistakable spark of creative genius that marks out the best of the studio’s output. It’s considerably closer in quality to the disappointing The Good Dinosaur than it is to the blistering originality of Inside Out.
It’s best to start with the positives because Finding Dory is a thoroughly charming movie. Ellen DeGeneres is consistently entertaining as Dory and the script, from Stanton and Victoria Strouse, deserves credit for utilising her memory loss to tell the story without it becoming grating. It’s a nimble bit of writing and there’s plenty to be said about the remarkably progressive decision to feature almost exclusively characters who have disabilities without yelling that from the rooftops.
The same cannot be said, however, for the story itself, which lacks the sense of effort and scale that made Finding Nemo so impressive. Dory seems to arrive at exactly where she needs to be in a matter of moments, with Marlin and Nemo not far behind her. Without the real sense of jeopardy created by a father being separated from his son, Finding Dory struggles for stakes and is forced to tack on a rather silly action-packed finale. The inevitable emotional crescendo, though, is picture perfect Pixar, turning the inherent fondness for the characters into an explosion of sentimentality that is as good as anything the company has produced in years. It’s not quite “take her to the moon for me”, but it’s pretty close.
There is a noticeable variance in the success of the new characters introduced in Finding Dory. While Kaitlin Olson and Ty Burrell bring fun to their roles, the same cannot be said of Ed O’Neill’s octopus, who flits in and out of the story without making much comedic impact. The film spends a lot of time in amusing scenarios, but it’s less keen on actually crafting memorable moments. Dory has always told us to just keep swimming, but this sequel mostly seems content to simply tread water.
Pop or Poop?
Finding Dory isn’t vintage Pixar, but it’s a good-natured and sweet movie that is respectful in extending the original film, even though it is destined never to match it. It’s wittier than many of the children’s films that have come out this summer, but lacks the unique hallmark of Pixar at its best.
When it drops its bombs of sentimentality, it works, but there’s nothing in the film that is genuinely remarkable and this stands very little chance of hitting the same status as a classic that came so easily to Finding Nemo.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.