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With Disney/Pixar now dedicated to a strategy of creating sequels to almost all of its most beloved titles, does Finding Dory measure up to its predecessor and increase anticipation for Cars 3, Toy Story 4 and The Incredibles 2?

Ever since Pixar rescued Toy Story 2 from the clutches of Disney’s direct-to-DVD department and crafted it into a worthy sequel that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the original, the Pixar name has, above all, stood for quality entertainment. As much as some people might not like certain titles or sequels, Pixar have never made a truly bad film. Finding Dory continues that trend however it doesn’t quite provide the same entertainment as the original picture.

When a random occurrence triggers a memory of her long-lost parents, Dory, with Marlin and Nemo in tow, sets out across the ocean to find them.ThankfullyDory doesn’t have to search the entire ocean. as Marlin did for Nemo,  as clues revealed in flashbacks (featuring  an almost impossibly cute baby Dory) point her in the direction of a marine wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre. Upon arrival, and before they can come up with a proper plan, the trio become separated and Dory, Marlin and Nemo have only a single night to find Dory’s parents and each other.

Open Water

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Setting the action in the confines of an aquarium instead of the open ocean provides Pixar with a host of oddball characters like Bailey, the Beluga with a bruised bonce who’s echo location is off;  Destiny, the near-sighted Whale shark, Fluke and Rudder, two seals that provide an odd cast reunion from The Wire in the form of Idris Elba and Dominic West and, most entertainingly, Ed O’Neill’s grumpy “septopus” Hank, who just wants a quite life in an isolated aquarium.

Narrowing the scope like this tends to rob the film of some of its sense of danger. As the water breathing cast pop from fish tank to fish tank, it’s always implied that they could miss, but I severely doubt that Pixar would traumatise a generation by letting any of its fishy cast suffocate on screen. There’s no sharks, anglerfish or submerged mines this time around and even the addition of a ticking clock can’t quite lend the film the same sense of danger as the first one

Dory’s biggest threat is that she forget whatever important task she is undertaking at that particular moment, or forget Marlin and Nemo completely, but as she charges through the movie, things usually work out for her lowering the stakes considerably.

Something fishy going on

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As Pixar story artist Emma Coats famously tweeted in her series of pixar “story basics” “Coincidences to get characters into trouble are great; coincidences to get them out of it are cheating.” (#19). Finding Dory feels like it’s cheating quite a bit. Hank appears whenever Dory needs to access another tank (octopii can stay out of water for quite some time and walk about on dry land) Marlin and Nemo similarly find breathable water in all sort of unexpected places. While this ties into Dory’s philosophy of never giving up, it does remove almost all sense of danger.

Some story beats also ring slightly untrue. At one point Marlin says something incredibly  hurtful to Dory, something that would be more in characters for him halfway through Finding Nemo. It feels out of place here and only seems to exist to split up the group.

Finding Dory is not quite as good as the first film but there is still plenty to enjoy.

The cast all shine, especially Ed O’Neill and Degeneres expertly walks a fine line, never letting Dory’s almost endless optimism and forgetfulness become annoying for the audience a sit frequently does for her fellow cast mates.

A Fish’s Life

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The animators and voice actors also manage to imbue almost every background fish with a sense of character and inner life, even if they are only on screen for a few seconds, like Bill Hader and Kate McKinnon. Plenty of the jokes and set ups are hilarious including the seal’s repeated defence of a nice rock, a crazy bird who takes a shine to Marlin,  and a fantastic recurring gaga involving a very famous actress.

Buried in the flashbacks is also a touching tale of two parents quest to raise a child with a disability as best they can, and it’s a credit to Pixar that they never shy away from the difficulties this entails or present any quick solution for Dory’s memory problems.

Finding Dory is a much more pacier and patchier than the original but still has plenty to enjoy, even if didn’t quite gel with this reviewer.

Sandpiper Short

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As usual, the latest Pixar feature arrives in cinemas with an animated short usually to show off some new animation tech or other. This time around it’s Piper, a simple story of a cute baby sandpiper bird, learning how to feed itself and deal with the waves of the sea that provides both nourishment, in the form of shellfish, and terror as Piper dashes madly to escape the waves. After the ok Sanjay’s Super Team and middling Lava, Piper is far more satisfying, alternating between funny, cute and educational while remaining entertaining throughout. It’s main star gives baby Dory a run for her money in the cuteness stakes.

 

Starring: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Hayden Rolence, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Sloane Murray, Idris Elba, Dominic West, Sigourney Weaver

Directed by:  Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane

Official Site here.

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Movie lover, project manager, coder. co-host of the McYapndFries movie podcast. Irish lost in Malaysia. Can be found on twitter @McNastyPrime (and yes, that IS the Iron Throne)