With Toy Story 4 and Cars 3 on the way, you might think that the seemingly endless stream of sequels coming out of Pixar show that the studio is struggling for new ideas. Finding Dory, following on from the search for Nemo thirteen years ago, however, is no ordinary sequel. The story picks up a year after the end of Finding Nemo, and sends us on an exhilarating new course.
Dory (Ellen Degenres) still has the short-term memory loss that has plagued her for as long as she can remember. Obviously that turns out not to be too far back, but she is beginning to experience glimpses of her fishy past. One day, while out on the reef, Dory has a vivid flashback of her childhood and remembers her parents for the first time. We see how she is trying hard to get back to them when she was still young and how bumping into Marlin (Albert Brooks) inadvertently made her entirely forget her mission to get back home.
Now desperate to find her mum and dad, Dory sets off to the Marine Research Centre she feels holds the answers. Along for the ride are an excited Nemo and a reluctant Marlin, who have travelled the oceans before in apparent lost causes. Along the way, Dory meets old friends and makes new ones. Hank, a grumpy octopus helps for a fee, and childhood pal Destiny also lends a fin.
The voice cast are great – the cuteness of a young Dory are matched by the vocals, and if anything, even better Nemo from the original. This time around, given the time between films, it’s actually a new actor playing the star of the first film.
There are some ingenious touches in this film. A highlight is the way in which Hank, the octopus, is able to camouflage his escape from the tank and onto a van headed for Cleveland.
You fear when the team arrive at the aquatic centre so early in proceedings that the rest of the film will end up spending too much time within the confines of these walls. It’s a legitimate concern in as much as we do indeed spend almost all of the final two acts here, but there is so much scope for fun and adventure that you’ll hardly remember why you were worried in the first place.
The last few scenes, when we get to the point of a chase along a freeway with a beluga whale tracking the Cleveland-bound van with echo location and a seven-legged octopus in the driver’s seat aided by a amnesiac fish in a jar acting as a Sat Nav device, does leave you wondering exactly what the heck is going on. Even in the realms of Pixar fantasy, this feel like one step too far. In fact, it’s the fact that this takes place within the ‘human’ world that makes it feel just too gimmicky at times.
This doesn’t detract from an otherwise outstanding effort from the animation studio. Coupled with the photo-realistic majesty of the short animation Piper that proceeds it, Finding Dory is a wonderful crowd-pleaser. It would have been easy to rehash the story from the first film, focussing on characters we already knew too well, but Nemo and Marlin have gone as far as they need to, and it makes sense they play second fiddle to Dory.
Finding Dory is released in the US on June 17, the UK on July 29, and will be screened at the Edinburgh Film Festival on June 18.