Finding Dory – Movie Review: “Krilling in the name of”
A recent article in The Guardian examined the ‘science of cute’ through an analysis of the Japanese character/logo/mascot Kumamon. If they had just waited a few weeks they would have had the perfect example of sheer unadulterated adorability right here.
The first time baby Dory appeared on the screen a chorus of coos reverberated through the cinema; with her enormously wondering eyes and voiced by producer Lindsey Collins’ seven year old daughter Sloane Murray, she seems concocted in some nefarious Bay Area laboratory to dig her tender fins right into our hearts.
And that was always the worry with this film, the ostensible sequel to 2003’s Finding Nemo. Would this just be Pixar fishing (if you don’t like ocean puns, now’s the time to leave) for more of those sweet millennial nostalgia dollars? Would the film sail through on the certainty that anyone who was there the first time around would be here again and would bring their kids too? Is Hollywood’s greatest ever animation studio just riding on an even keel?
We were fools to be concerned, of course. Did we learn nothing from Toy Story 2? From Monsters University? From Toy Story 3? Pixar is a studio which, as of yet, has never taken its audience for granted (don’t mention Cars 2. Even Ghandi had to pay the bills). True, the film does bear some striking similarities to its predecessor, and there are many scenes which a particularly unobservant latecomer could mistake for outtakes. Nonetheless this is a movie that ultimately follows very much its own current, and arrives on shore with a powerful and moving message which differs in subtle but important ways from the first.
It’s a message supported by a characteristically excellent set of voice actors. The only change to the familiar cast is Hayden Rolence as Nemo, replacing the now firmly post-pubescent Alexander Gould, and he does a fine job of capturing the enthusiasm and exasperation of the young clownfish alongside the returning Albert Brooks as anxious father Marlin. A particularly enjoyable addition is Ty Burrell as Bailey the beluga whale, whose newly relearned skills of echolocation (‘the world’s biggest pair of glasses,’ according to someone who’s clearly never been to Voodoo Ray’s on a Thursday night) comes in pretty handy. We’re also introduced to Hank the misanthropic red octopus (voiced by Ed O’Neill), whose chameleon-like ability to blend into the background provides fodder for a series of perfectly executed sight gags to go along with a frequently hilarious script.
It’s also worth mentioning at this stage, in case there was any doubt, that the animation is sublime. Shafts of light percolate through forests of gently waving kelp, individual grains of sand tumble from ruffled shells, and those voice actors’ jobs are made significantly easier by faces on which each expression is realised in minute detail. Full advantage is also taken of the film’s primary setting, the Marine Life Institute, as Hank and Dory fling themselves from tank to tank and, in one of the film’s many captivating set-pieces, race through the Institute’s gloomy pipes.
None of that ever distracts, however, from the powerful tides of tragedy and emotion with which director Andrew Stanton fearlessly tugs the narrative along. The old truism about Pixar – they don’t make kids’ films, they make films that kids like – is no less realised here. There’s no villain of the story, only the struggles and joys of navigating an ocean as full of foreboding as it is of possibility. As with their last triumph Inside Out, Pixar refuses to ignore or simplify the difficult, instead its creates a boundlessly universe in which adults as well as children can recognise their own place.
That’s not to say that this is a perfect film – it’s certainly not even the best Pixar film. But with all its frustrations and familiarities, with all its joy and tenderness, and yes, with all its love, Finding Dory ultimately feels a lot like coming home. And that’s a wonderful feeling.