Finding Dory – Review (*** 1/2)

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Fear not, for though this belated follow-up to the beloved 2003 animated classic Finding Nemo doesn’t even come close to Pixar’s splendid Toy Story sequels, it’s a comfortable world away from the risible Cars 2, and on its own merits is a sweet, goofy and highly entertaining addition to the studio’s repertoire.

A year after the events of the first film, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) begins to have flashes of memories of her long-lost parents (Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton), and so sets out with Nemo (Hayden Rolence), a reluctant Marlin (Albert Brooks) and a host of wonderful new characters to track them down.

First and foremost, this will be an easy sell to most anyone who even remotely enjoyed the original film; it may be a less fresh and unique film in almost every way, but it’s a warm, endearing return to the characters audiences know and love.

Yes, it may lack the wit and sophistication of Pixar’s better works, instead leaning heavier on sight gags and more broad, silly humour, but it’s still howlingly funny throughout, thanks in large part to the terrific supporting cast, with Idris Elba and Dominic West’s sea lions quite possibly stealing the show. Ed O’Neill is also superb as Hank, a curmudgeonly octopus who desperately wants nothing more than to be left alone.

While it wants for the emotional sledgehammer force of, say, Toy Story 3 or Up, Dory’s story is nevertheless affecting all the same, both in terms of her journey to meet her family, and the film’s unexpected depiction of a mentally ill character attempting to make their way through the world. Sure, Dory’s scatterbrain is played frequently for laughs, but on another level the film also aptly realises the difficulties that these beleaguered individuals, human or not, can face in their everyday existence. It would be easy for DeGeneres to play Dory one-note, but she dares to take it further, and the film is all the better for it.

There are occasional narrative lulls where it’s merely satisfactorily fun, but largely the pic moves quickly and rarely lingers on a gag longer than is necessary, again aided by a cast who are giving 110%. While not up there with Pixar’s masterpieces, it’s another visually gorgeous reminder of their ingenuity in crafting vivid, thoughtful family entertainment that doesn’t need to bathe itself in overt pop-culture references and cringe-worthy song-and-dance numbers. For that reason among many others, savour it.

*** 1/2

Finding Dory is in US cinemas now and UK cinemas July 29th

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