Belated sequels haven’t been having the best of times of late. Follow-ups to the likes of Dumb And Dumber, Zoolander and Anchorman have either spluttered at the box office, or failed to capture what made the original films work. Even those that have succeeded – Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Jurassic World – have nailed their colours firmly to the proverbial masts of the original movies.
Finding Dory, though, arrives in the UK off the back of an enormous level of success in the US. And whilst it’s arguably not the equal of the charming and quite wonderful Finding Nemo, there’s an awful lot to like here.
Chiefly, Dory. The focus of Finding Dory, co-written and co-directed by Andrew Stanton (who was the driving force behind Finding Nemo), is on her, voiced once again by Ellen DeGeneres. Dory is a regal blue tang fish, who we meet quickly at the start of the film as she becomes separated from her parents. The movie effortlessly explains that Dory has short term memory loss problems, and it’s a disability that inevitably presents her with life challenges.
But this is what I really, really love about Finding Dory: it presents a central character who lives with a disability, but one who also accepts it, works with it, and goes about life in as positive a fashion as possible. That’s not to say that there’s not peril, adventure and danger in Dory’s life. But it’s the way she reacts and deals with it that’s so important. I think Dory is one of Pixar’s most important characters.
Not that she’s alone. Character is what really defined Finding Nemo, and it does so again here. Hank, voiced by Ed O’Neill, is a real delight. Hank is an octopus, and a masterclass in character animation. Furthermore, there’s the wonderful double act of Idris Elba and Dominic West as sea lions Fluke and Rudder (and I urge you: stay til after the end credits), and the utterly lovable Bailey the whale. Finding Dory is a film awash with personality, and even when the narrative drops a little, you’re never far away from someone you want to spend time with.
The narrative does ebb and flow a little, though. It’d be unfair to call Finding Dory a retread of Finding Nemo, but the core foundation is clearly similar. Furthermore, as fast, furious and fun as some of the action beats are, that’s not the sense where the film feels like it’s breaking that much in the way of new ground. There’s nothing, for me, that got to the interest level of being stuck in a tank in Finding Nemo, and the challenge that presented.
But there’s still plenty else to enjoy. I laughed a lot at Finding Dory, and found myself beguiled by the stunning visuals that Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane, the co-directors, have shepherded onto the screen. Furthermore, there’s no shortage of sheer effort here. I found myself disappointed by The Secret Life Of Pets for instance, for coming up with an intriguing concept and then running out of interesting things to do with it after 10 or 15 minutes. No such shortcomings here.
Vintage Pixar? It doesn’t feel like it, but it’s too early to call that. What is likely, though, is that – like its superior forerunner – Finding Dory will be enjoyed for a very long time to come. And I think that’s a very good thing.
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