Monday, 20 June 2016

Finding Dory

“I’m Sigourney Weaver, thank you for joining us”

There’s possibly nobody on Earth more excited for Finding Dory than Ellen DeGeneres, and this is very much her movie, however the stakes are high with this latest Pixar release. Their track record for sequels is second-to-none, and Finding Nemo is arguably one of their most well regarded films. Thirteen years on, does the Finding story really have the legs for a sequel?

Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) is an amnesiac. She’s also a fish. After returning home from the adventures of the first film, Dory struggles to fit in on the reef. Yet after a telling flashback, she remembers a key detail about her childhood and how she and her parents became separated. Darting immediately off into the distance, her friends Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence) - after calming her down - agree to help her look for her long-lost parents.

After the usual warm-up act from Piper - possibly the most adorable Pixar short to date - Finding Dory takes no time to remind us who the new titular character is, “My name’s Dory. I suffer from short-term memory loss”, certainly not the last time we’ll hear that phrase. After a life-story in well-handled flashbacks, we pick up essentially where we left off. Whatever may have happened to Dory, Marlin and Nemo in the short time-period that we’ve skipped, it’s clear that we haven’t missed anything important. Soon enough we’re following the trio on a quest to find Dory’s parents in what turns out to be a much lighter, safer chapter in the series.

Sure, Finding Dory is just as entertaining as the original, and continues the kids/adults balance that Pixar films handle so well, but despite several set-ups and the immense challenges posed to the marine trio, it doesn’t feature any real moments of peril like the first, or manage to traverse the emotional peaks and troughs that you might expect of it.

The Australian talent is sadly gone (not surprising as it's largely set in a different part of the ocean)
which means so are the suspiciously well-meaning vegetarian sharks, a source of entertainment and danger in the original. In the handful of scenes where there are challenges to overcome, we’re far from the edge of our seats. Before we even have the chance to experience any palpable tension, the situation is quickly resolved (often thanks to one of the various new characters and their slightly too convenient attributes) and Dory, Marlin and Nemo are able to continue onward, with little to no impact on the plot or character development.

It may not have the depth, but the story is at least well written - particularly the dialogue. There was a real danger that more focus could turn Dory into the Jar-Jar Binks of the series, but her forgetful yet bubbly personality stays surprisingly well balanced. Thankfully, the animation stays true to the original, with only small-improvements here and there that all but the most hardcore of fans wouldn’t notice. Thomas Newman’s soundtrack is good for the most part but doesn’t have the same energy or mix of raw emotions that his OST for the first film did (a real contender for best Pixar soundtrack).

Finding Dory kind of feels like it’s missing something. At its best, it’s regularly witty and light-hearted fun that works for both parents and kids - with a great moment involving Louis Armstrong, a truck and slow motion - but it doesn’t challenge its younger audience with moral hurdles or the emotional punch that we’ve come to expect from the better Pixar films.

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