DIR: Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane • WRI: Andrew Stanton, Victoria Strouse • PRO:Lindsey Collins • DOP: Jeremy Lasky • ED: Axel Geddes • MUS: Thomas Newman • DES: Steve Pilcher • CAST: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill
In cinema, the word ‘sequel’ rarely equates with the word ‘quality’. Desperate to cash-in on the success of the previous film, studios churn out follow-up flicks that too often contain a mere percentage of the thought and effort invested in the original. Pixar was once the forerunner of animation in both artistry and storytelling, alas recent years have proven them fallible to the recent ‘sequel-reboot-remake’ trend sweeping Hollywood.
Cars 3, anyone?
Thankfully Finding Dory, though it follows the Pixar formula to the letter, has enough charm and humour to make it a memorable film in its own right.
It’s been a year since the loveable, but forgetful, Dory (DeGeneres) and clownfish Marlin (Brooks) found Nemo (Rolence) and life seems sweet for the fishy trio on the Great Barrier Reef. But Dory remains dogged by unanswered (or rather, unremembered) questions about her past, namely: what happened to her parents? After a childhood memory manages to crawl its way out of the tangled web that is Dory’s mind, our favourite blue tang finds herself yet again on a quest to retrieve lost family members. The first fifteen minutes of the film, though pleasant to look at and not entirely devoid of laughs, threatens the audience with a straightforward retelling of the first film verbatim. It’s the same set-up to be sure, only the characters roles have been reversed- the child is now searching for the parents. But the plot takes a sharp turn once the characters reach the Marine Life Institute, California. Here, new characters are introduced that inject a sense vibrancy missing from the film’s earlier sections. The most notable of these colourful additions is the grouchy-but-really-good-natured Hank (O’Neill), a seven-legged octopus (a septopus if you will) who aids Dory in her search by cleverly navigating the facility with his camouflage abilities.
Hank is the Dory of this film. Not because he’s cute or cuddly, in fact he’s gruff and grumpy for the most part, but because he steals practically every scene he is in. Much of this is due to Ed O’Neill’s fantastic voice work, but needless to say this does not bode well for our protagonist. Herein lies one of the films main problems – Dory just isn’t an endearing enough character to carry a film by herself. This may seem strange since what most people took away from the original film was DeGeneres’ snappy ad-libs and penchant for communicating with whales. The character was funny and memorable, with just a hint of tragedy, which always makes for a great story, or so it would seem.
To give the film credit, it handles the question of living with short-term memory loss in a sensitive and thoughtful manner. The audience feels Dory’s frustration with not being able to remember anything and adds tension to the film when the character is left to her own inadequate devices. The thing is, this was already dealt with in the first film and arguably in a more deft way. The message of family, being true to yourself, and struggling against the odds keeps being reiterated throughout the film to the point that it almost loses its meaning. To add to this, Dory is at her funniest when she has a folly to work off of, be it Marlin or Hank. On her own, and having to prop up everyone else, Dory just isn’t as funny a character. It becomes painfully clear as the film progresses that the extra characters were needed to plump up Dory’s otherwise flat scenes. Being a Pixar film, however, there is still plenty of heart to this story and more dazzling visuals than you can take in from one viewing. Only they can make vast expanses of water look as textured and as interesting as they do in the film. The transitions from open water to buckets to tanks are superb and makes the film flow (no pun intended) seamlessly from one scene to another.
Overall, Finding Dory is already guaranteed to be beloved by fans of the first film but has a lot to offer newcomers of all ages. Bright, fun and moving, this film is a solid, though not exactly ground-breaking, addition to the Pixar line-up. If only all sequels could be like this, then they probably would be met with far less protest.
G (See IFCO for details)
Finding Dory is released 29th July 2016