One of Pixar’s less disappointing sequels, this long-awaited return to the sea has countless moments of enormous charm.
Finding Nemo is a phenomenal, timeless piece of animated cinema because it tells- in a charming and accessible way- a resonant story about fatherhood and loss. 13 years later, its sequel is no such classic, to the surprise of few, yet creates its own charm through a distinctly lighter-in-tone but nonetheless moving parable on themes of disability and dedication.
Finding Dory begins with a flashback to Dory’s childhood as her worrisome parents attempt to deal with her crippling short-term memory loss. Baby Dory is a queasily hyper-cute creation, an “adorable character” focused-group to within an inch of its life with the purpose of selling a million plush toys. Unfortunately, this wide-eyed and innocently-voiced monstrosity returns throughout the film for a series of ill-conceived memory scenes. However, every moment with Adult Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) is a delight.
Dory is an extraordinarily human character, recognisable and relatable. Her interactions with octopus Hank (Ed O’Neill) are a true standout: her tireless, constantly regenerating optimism and energy contrasted with the weariness of the aquarium veteran. Hank, in many ways, occupies much of Marlin’s role from Nemo, as the roles of both clownfish are reduced to occasional comedy interludes to allow Dory to carry the emotional weight of the film. On the topic of “emotional weight”, Dory fails to hit anywhere near as hard as Inside Out or the original Nemo, and there is a mild lack of authenticity to the eventual payoff to Dory’s long search for her parents.
The film’s middle act sees Dory moving around the Marine Life Institute, meeting an assortment of hilarious new fishy friends. There are gruff sea lions voiced by The Wire‘s Dominic West and Idris Elba, Ty Burrell as whale and… Gerald. Make no mistake: this film will sell a million toys come Christmas, and with good reason. Nobody makes children happy like Pixar, and even when they’re not at their absolute best (see last year’s phenomenal Inside Out), their films can be relied upon for triumphant slices of summer magic.