FINDING DORY (Disney)
Dir. Andrew Stanton, Script. Andrew Stanton, Victoria Strouse
Cast (voice): Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Ed O’Neill
Plot: Dory has further flashbacks of her past, and once again has to run from the CIA…wait, that’s the last review…
Truth be told, was there any doubting Finding Dory would be fantastic? Sure, the Pixar quality train has threatened to derail a couple of times in the last few years, with a couple of average movies and the ultra-successful animation studio’s first genuine financial flop (The Good Dinosaur) – but betting against them is the move of an unwise man. As we all expected for the most part, Finding Dory is an exceptionally good movie, although its testament to the sheer depth of Pixar’s brilliance that I still find that it might be one of their lesser films; certainly, Finding Dory doesn’t quite match its predecessor, but it still provides in bucket-loads all of the ingredients that Pixar have trademarked – humour, sincerity, and of course, the ability to turn on humanity’s collective hosepipe.
Because, in another obvious plot twist, Finding Dory‘s a tearjerker: I would love to talk about the waterworks-providing scenes at length, but to do so would be spoiling it. But it’s not only the narrative that makes those scenes so brilliant. The animation is once again immeasurably expressive: even characters that we barely see, sometimes even through flashbacks, are so well realized and vivid as characters because of their little movements and idiosyncrasies, and the team at Pixar have accentuated every single one of them to maximal effect. As well as that, Finding Dory is in the capable hands of Andrew Stanton, whom many may not have heard of (his only live-action effort was the infamous bomb, John Carter) but in my opinion is one of the greatest storytellers working today. Stanton, the man behind Finding Nemo and my personal all-time favourite Pixar movie WALL-E (cue rioting in the streets), directs this movie pretty much perfectly, nailing every emotional bear and making me feel for a memory-affected fish in a way I never would have thought I could.
And that blue tang is testament to the power of moviemaking in general: in Finding Nemo, Dory was incredibly endearing, one of Pixar’s best ever characters – but now, Dory might have just eclipsed them all. Ellen DeGeneres’ voice performance is nothing short of stunning – equal parts funny, charming, sad, worried…she hits every note with total precision. Dory’s short-term memory loss was played mostly for laughs originally, but the entire of the film’s first five minutes is dedicated to make you realize how crippling Dory’s condition is: it’s a disability in every sense of the word. She’s not the only one – most of the main characters in Finding Dory have challenges. We’re introduced to two whales (Kaitlin Olsen & Ty Burrell, both charming), one with near-sightedness and another who has lost their ability to echolocate, a cynical octopus with a missing limb (voiced by an excellent Ed O’Neill – referred to throughout as a Septopus), and let’s not forget Nemo’s ‘lucky fin’. Finding Dory is a film that not only tackles this subject matter with complete respect and sincerity, but should make absolutely anybody feel like they can take on the world. Dory’s arc in this film, in which she overcomes her memory loss just enough to succeed, is truly inspirational, and added to DeGeneres’s superb performance makes Dory an absolutely timeless character.
The script, penned by Stanton in tandem with Victoria Strouse, is a wonderful bit of work from the pair. As well as its approach to its subject matter being perfect, it’s also damn funny. A couple of comic relief sea lions provide actual comic relief (characters that are in shorter supply by the minute, it seems), DeGeneres’s lightning quick nattering never fails to bring a smile, and one of the climactic scenes of the film is the most hilarious sequence I’ve seen in a cinema this year, and probably for many others also. Sigourney Weaver also has an extended cameo (she had a cameo in Stanton’s WALL-E as well) as the PA announcer of the ‘Marine Life Institute’, Dory’s former home from which she got lost as a child, and Weaver’s inclusion is yet another unrelentingly funny gag. And then there’s the story itself: jam-packed with emotion, fully realized supporting characters and genuine arcs for most characters except Nemo, whose ‘kidnap’ has been reduced to a footnote, and Nemo himself acts as a preacher of giving people chances, to a reliably untrustworthy and judgemental Marlin (Albert Brooks, functional). Unfortunately, the Marlin-Nemo bond feels the weakest in the film, and there’s actually very little reason for them to have gone with Dory, as they give her next to no help throughout the film – I get the feeling they’re prescence has been decided via committee and not narrative purpose.
There are other issues with Finding Dory as well, that hinder it from being at the high end of my Pixar rankings. While Finding Nemo concerned most of the movie with Marlin and Dory somehow trying to make it to Sydney, the tuna triumvirate take only five minutes to reach California (because they just know where that is) and would have probably teleported there instantly if not for Finding Dory‘s obligatory, unnecessary and unmemorable Crush cameo. As well as that, the epilogue of the film has a rather gaping hole in it as to where the flying fish a couple of characters have escaped to, as if the film suddenly developed Dory’s short-term memory loss. But despite a couple of niggles, Finding Dory is a Pixar movie of the highest tradition and deserves to be respected as such. It might not quite reach the lofty heights of its predecessor, but Finding Dory is a brilliant and welcome continuation of Dory’s story. Arriving in a summer season that’s mainly been struggling to keep afloat, Pixar once again arrive, halo levitating on Luxo-lamp, and just keep swimming.
BEST WATCHED: If you love Pixar as much as your duty as a human being stipulates, you’ve already booked.
Pixar’s upcoming slate is mainly sequel based, which depending on your angle is either a good or a bad thing. Personally, I think Pixar have really flown the flag for original filmmaking and creating new stories, so to see them making so many sequels (admittedly to great original films) is a little disappointing, despite the fact I’m obviously very excited to see them – well, apart from Cars 3. And Cars 3 is next on the list, or the ‘Merchandise could use a kick’ production on the Pixar slate, followed by Toy Story 4 (which I disagree with – that trilogy is as perfect as you’ll find one) in two years and The Incredibles 2 in three (which I agree with – I HAVE BEEN WAITING PIXAR).