Finding Dory

****1/2

Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Finding Dory
"Balance is the thing and Stanton and MacLane know when to use a well-timed piece of slapstick or visual gag to cut through sentiment."

Pixar's uncanny ability of taking a universal idea and running hard with it is one of its films' biggest attractions. Sure, there may be pop culture references along the way but at their heart, the best of Pixar's output is built around basic concepts that cross the generations - and with this sequel to Finding Nemo, Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane and their team have knocked it out of the water park. That's because, just about everyone from the age of three on up is familiar with the sudden, terrible, bladder-loosening moment when you think you've lost your parent/child in a crowd. Here, they use the inate charm of the perpetually optimistic but hopelessly forgetful Dory (Ellen Degeneres, stepping up once again to the mic) - her eyes as big as saucers, her determination second to none - to tap into that emotion.

It's been a while since she and clownfish Nemo (Hayden Rolence) and his dad Marlin (Albert Brooks) returned from their last ocean adventure and things are pretty much back to normal, until Dory suddenly remembers something she forgot about - her parents. A flashback sequence shows baby Dory being schooled by mum and dad Charlie (Eugene Levy) and Jenny (Diane Keaton) in how to cope with her amnesia - what essentially amounts to a learning difficulty - in a way that gently shows children that though Dory's forgetfulness may seem funny on the surface it is also something more debilitating and, for her, scary than that. Recollection of her past hits with the force of a wave and it's not long before she's enlisting the help of her buddies and surfer dude sea turtle Crush (Stanton) and heading off on a journey that takes them all the way to the Marine Life Institute - a theme park haunted by the instructional tones of Sigourney Weaver.

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The party, inevitably gets split up, with Marlin and Nemo on the outside trying to get in, where they meet a new collection of characters, including territorial sea lion duo Fluke and Rudder (Idris Elba and Dominic West) whose constant cries of "Off! Off! Off!" every time another sea lion attempts to sit on their rock are a perfect comedy match for the seagull shouts of "Mine! Mine! Mine!" in Nemo and Becky, a literal and figurative common loon, who offers some unexpected help. Meanwhile, inside the Institute, Dory befriends a grumpy octopus Hank (Ed O'Neill), whose ability to blend in with any background and spend periods out of water is crucial to the plot, and enlists his help in return for ensuring he gets a one-way ticket to a cosy tank in Cleveland. She also bumps into an old friend, short-sighted Whale Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), whose Beluga pal Bailey (Ty Burrell) might also be able to help, if only a bump on the head hadn't ruined his sonar.

All the beautiful artwork you would expect is here - from breathtaking kelp forests to the manmade confines of the tanks - but it never upstages the characters. Balance is the thing and Stanton and MacLane know when to use a well-timed piece of slapstick or visual gag to cut through sentiment, such as when a Marlin and Nemo father and son talk is beautifully interrupted by a clockwork fish. The story's arc has also been carefully constructed so that the 'weepy bit' falls not at the end of the movie but around two-thirds of the way through, giving mums and dads plenty of time to brush tears aside by the time they exit the cinema with an exciteable four-year-old and ensuring the film ends on an emotionally upbeat note. If children are likely to come away with a little bit of a life lesson in what it's like to have to cope with a disability, parents may also find themselves thinking about that other point in life when memory becomes a problem - old age - and their attitudes towards it, showing that Dory's delightful have-a-go attitude can teach everyone a thing or two about what it means to be human.

Screening with short film Piper

Reviewed on: 24 Jul 2016
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The forgetful fish is back.
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Director: Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane

Writer: Andrew Stanton, Victoria Strouse, Bob Peterson

Starring: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Kate McKinnon, Idris Elba, Bill Hader, Dominic West, Kaitlin Olson, Diane Keaton, Ed O'Neill, Ty Burrell, Eugene Levy, Andrew Stanton, Hayden Rolence, Bennett Dammann, Torbin Xan Bullock

Year: 2016

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US

Festivals:

EIFF 2016

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If you like this, try:

Finding Nemo