By Jordan Jaisingh (Enfield, London, UK)
finding-dory-3

 

Plot Overview: One year after the events of Finding Nemo, short term memory impaired Dory finds herself at a crossroads when she has a sudden revelation about her parents. Having finally remembered the location of her birth, Nemo and Marlin seek to help her on her journey across the ocean to reunite with her long lost family.

Was a sequel to Finding Nemo necessary? Well, yes and no. The choice to return to the underwater setting, may be more than just to produce a narrative jewel. Pixar’s once impeccable track record, now has several questionable entries. Did anyone enjoy Brave? Maybe, but it doesn’t hold up against the universally admired classics Pixar had produced in the previous decade. The studio had seemingly reached a point of diminishing returns. It’s only gem in the past five years, being Inside Out. Perhaps their ocean of innovation had run dry. We now enter the sequel era of Pixar, with Incredibles 2, Cars 3 and Toy Story 4 firmly in development. A last ditch attempt it may seem, to try and recapture what not only made Pixar world renowned animators, yet also wonderful storytellers.

“This feels familiar,” Dory utters after a breathtakingly animated ride on Sea Turtles. A feeling that was also troubling me at this point in proceedings. The film opens all too similar to its predecessor, with a heart-rending flashback showing the more tragic nature of Dory’s condition. With Ellen DeGeneres’ Dory being the undoubted highlight of the previous film, the blue fish is now given the spotlight. Her troublesome memory, which offered the most comic relief previously, now sits firmly at the story’s emotional core. However, during the first act in particular, the feeling that Pixar was almost remixing story beats from the first film became all too apparent. The tear-jerker opening, a wild ride aboard Sea Turtles, a relentless chase by a dangerous predator. Deja Vu anyone?

Luckily, as the feelings of familiarity began to darken things, the film truly kicks into gear. The search for Dory’s parents goes deeper from a character perspective than the previous entry. As expected, Dory does lose her way, but the story is far more of an introspective journey for her. She is struggling to come to terms with what she suffers from and also how it affects those that she loves. The plot also involves a mystery to solve, as Dory’s attempts to unravel her past are seamlessly interwoven with flashbacks, slowly explaining the tragedy that led to her family’s separation.

This time around, less time is spent exploring the vastness of the ocean. The gang stumble upon the Marine Life Institute; a sea-life medical facility where the most impressive moments of the film take place. It is here where Dory meets Hank, an octopus with a surprising agenda for an aquatic creature. Voiced by Ed O’Neill, this new addition to the cast brings such excitement and wit to the film. He is the most amusing addition in a feature which boasts a more involved supporting cast than the predecessor, which also consists of an adorable Whale Shark and a Beluga Whale. Needless to say for a Pixar film, the impressive cast provide almost constant laughs for all audiences. Although, there isn’t any instant classic moments as meme worthy as the Seagulls encounter from Finding Nemo.

In the thirteen years since the first film, Pixar have perfected their craft. The colours are more vivid, the environments, both land and aquatic based are bursting with seemingly photo-realistic detail. Some of the creatures, particularly Hank the Octopus, move with such fluidity that it boggles the mind to think how his movement was achieved without some form of motion capture. It almost goes without saying at this point, but Pixar truly are the kings of CG animation.

Most importantly, the story is brimming with heart. What may seem like a risky, even bizarre choice to sideline the main characters of your previous film in favour of a once supporting character, is what gives way to arguably a more emotional journey than before. That is not to say that Nemo and Marlin don’t get their fair share of screen time and laughs. Dory is front and center throughout, something that would lead to nightmarish results in other franchises. Pixar’s characters are thankfully so well realised, that it feels natural to delve deeper into her psyche.

Bottom Line: Brimming with life, colour and fun. Elements of familiarity prevent it from reaching the dizzying heights of the original, yet Dory’s journey is one which can stand as a proud companion piece to the first film. A sequel wasn’t a necessity, but you’ll love it all the same.

Rating: 4/5

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