13 years, it seems a long time since cinema goers fell in love with the forgetful Blue Tang who stole the show and our hearts in the wonderful Finding Nemo. Finding Dory is finally here, but was it worth the wait?
There was a time when Pixar Animation Studios were unrivaled in their output, but following a few lean years (for every Inside Out there is a Cars 2 or The Good Dinosaur) they have been somewhat caught up, mainly by their parent company, as Disney’s main animation arm begin to churn out hit after hit, and let’s not mention the little yellow guys over at Universal. With Toy Story 4, The Incredibles 2 and *sigh* Cars 3 on the way, are sequels really the way to go?
If Finding Dory is anything to go by then yes, it definitely is. This is every bit as heart warming as its predecessor, maybe even more so. It’s Pixar’s funniest film in years, heck, it is probably their funniest film ever.
After a slightly underwhelming but nice enough short about a baby seabird, the film opens with a young Dory and her parents, tenderly voiced by Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton. As she learns to deal with her short term memory loss, she suddenly finds her self separated from her family, we then have a brief montage of how she ends up meeting up with Marlin, as he searches for his son. Flash forward a year and Dory begins to get memory flashes about her past and talks Marlin and Nemo into joining her on a journey to discover her past. They find their way to The Marine Life Institute, where following an encounter with a Giant Squid they go their separate ways, with Dory teaming up with a grouchy Octopus. Can Dory remember enough to find her parents? Can Marlin and Nemo find her before it is too late? Well, that would be telling…
From the opening scene with the devastatingly cute young Dory being heartbreakingly wrenched from her loving parents, I was hooked, while not meeting the emotional heights of the opening of Up, this certainly does tug at the heart strings and even the stone hearted of viewer will find a lump in their throat. Her story is told in flashback, a device that I don’t normally like, but given Dory’s fractured memory it really works here. We are learning about her past as she remembers it.
The film drags ever so slightly (if you have restless youngsters sitting beside you at least) until the action reaches The Marine Life Institute. Once there, it coasts along from one wonderful set piece to the next. This is in no small part down the introduction of some fantastic new characters. First and foremost we have Hank the Octopus voiced by a brilliantly grouchy Ed O’Neill, he is Dory’s unwilling guide through the institute and is gradually worn down by her eternal optimism, the scene where she tells him he has 3 hearts is just delightful. Then we have Destiny (Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Kaitlin Olson) and Bailey (Modern Family’s genius Ty Burrell) as a pair of whales, who are more than just a set up to revive one of Finding Nemo’s best jokes (Dory speaking whale). Last but by no means least, we have a crazy reunion of The Wire cast as Idris Elba and Dominic West play a pair of wonderfully lazy sea lions. If ever any Pixar characters were primed to return, if not in their own film, most definitely in a pre-feature short, it is these two.
The star and heart of the film is of course Ellen DeGeneres as Dory. Last year, for the release of Inside Out, The Snooty Ushers had a look our favourite Pixar moments and I picked DeGeneres’s performance as my all time favourite. Here, with the character front and centre she is just pitch perfect. Her journey is an emotional one, heartbreaking even, but DeGeneres continuously injects Dory with a sense of hope and humour, yes, the character is brilliantly written, but it takes a very talented performer to pull it off and we most definitely have that here.
The film is beautifully animated, you expect nothing else right? This is another giant step forward in the art. Just look at the introduction of Hank The Octopus and marvel. They blend the human and marine worlds brilliantly, I would wager everyone who is of a certain age let out a chuckle when the narrator of The Marine Life Institute is revealed.
The characters are separated and reunited so much that it gets slightly tiresome and it maybe a little long of very young kids (my 4 year old was getting restless by the end) but you would have to be pretty hard hearted to hold it against the film. Given the huge setting, this is probably one of Pixar’s more intimate works, with the kids who loved Finding Nemo so much entering adulthood that is no surprise. Andrew Stanton returns to direct for the first time since Wall-E (2008), has there been a better Pixar director when it comes to adding a tinge of tragedy to a family film? That is a debate for another day, here he not only directs some wonderful action sequences (the touch pool in the Kid Zone being an hilarious highlight) but fills his script with some laugh out loud dialogue.
At the end of the day, while not quite hitting the heights of classic Pixar, this is a reminder that these guys can not only push the envelope when it comes to animation, but can also deliver a heart warming, hilarious, action packed journey for all the family. Adults can sit back a enjoy the return of these great characters, the kids can marvel at the wonderful animation, I guarantee everyone will laugh. Make sure you stay in your seats at the end folks, there are some old friends waiting for you after the end credits.
Thanks for reading. Hope you folks enjoyed yourselves, catch ya later on down the trail.
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