As part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival I was lucky enough to have access to a preview screening of Pixar’s latest outing Finding Dory directed by Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane. Finding Dory is the much anticipated sequel to the Pixar highpoint Finding Nemo so immediately it has a very tough act to follow.
The story here is that Dory’s troublesome memory is conjuring up images of her long lost parents which starts her on a quest to find them so that her family can reunite. Dory was very much the comic relief in the first film so having her take centre stage here is a brave choice as it has to come with added character depth to justify her being the focus.
Naturally the film doesn’t hold back on that regard and takes the viewer back to when Dory was a very young fish being shown the ways of the sea by her compassionate parents. Her memory loss has been a problem for her since she was born and it becomes the central hook for her journey through this film.
The flashes of memory take her to a Marine Life Institute that takes care of sick or injured aquatic creatures before releasing them back into the wild so the location itself doesn’t present much in the way of mortal danger from the humans around.
Structurally the film plays out like a video game with Dory having to navigate one unique area before progressing to the next which eventually gets her to what she’s looking for. It’s a clean structure and is incredibly easy to follow with plenty of visual variety from the various tanks that Dory finds herself in. There’s plenty to keep the eye interested and it all looks absolutely stunning as you would expect from Pixar by this point.
Dory’s memory is handled differently depending on the situation. It is used for both comedic and tragic effect with an impressive level of sophistication. In a matter of seconds I went from being frustrated with her inability to progress due to her memory failing to being sympathetic when it seems as if there is nothing she can do to escape whatever insane situation she has gotten into. Both aspects are milked for everything they are worth and Dory never stops being an endearing character. Ellen DeGeneres delivers a flawless vocal performance that showcases a wide range of emotion and furthers Dory as a classic character worthy of all the praise she gets.
Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence) are along for the ride as well. They are following Dory in her quest and get in some trouble of their own along the way. Their characters aren’t unnecessary as such but at times their scenes distract from the more interesting Dory story happening alongside. Marlin was the main character of the first film with Nemo only showing up to remind viewers what was at stake but here the film very much belongs to Dory with little intervention from them.
Helping Dory along the way is the escape minded Octopus -or should that be Septipus?- Hank (Ed O’Neill). This character is great on both a vocal performance level and an animation level. He uses biological camouflage to blend into his surroundings which creates some wonderfully hilarious images. The back and forth between him and Dory is excellent and his defined arc of having his heard heart(s?) soften over the course of the film works brilliantly.
Katlin Olsen as the near sighted Whale shark Destiny and Ty Burrell as the Bailey, the Beluga Whale unable to use echolocation are welcome additions to the cast and bring a lot of laughs. Idris Elba and Dominic West as the Sea Lions Fluke and Rudder also provide excellent entertainment throughout.
The various set pieces are really well put together if a little far fetched. I couldn’t help but think that humans might notice the really bizarre things going on around them but I don’t really watch a Pixar movie for realism. The film certainly fully commits to the insanity, especially towards the end in a set piece that really has to be seen to be believed. I won’t spoil it here as it’s wonderful to experience it blind.
Many will be wondering if it’s as good as Finding Nemo or not and that will largely be down to personal taste. It gets major points for not feeling like a retread of the same story with a different character and the use of the vastly different location is really refreshing. Personally I would say it holds up pretty well when put against the first entry and more or less matches the overall quality. It is definitely a joy to watch no matter where on the pecking order you want to put it.
An excellent outing from Pixar that succeeds as a follow up to the popular Finding Nemo. Dory is as endearing a character as ever and Ellen DeGeneres delivers a flawless vocal performance. The story moves along nicely with some memorable new supporting characters to round out the cast. It manages to not feel like a retread of the first film and uses an impressively different location to bring some variety to the story. Whether it’s as good as the first film or not is completely up for debate but it’s a joy to watch nonetheless.
- the excellent vocal performance from Ellen DeGeneres
- an entertaining and emotionally engaging story
- memorable new supporting characters
- Marlin and Nemo sometimes feeling unnecessary