It’s comeback season!
Last week, it was The Avalanches, returning from 16 years in the musical wilderness. This week, it’s another world-famous Australian icon – clownfish Nemo, and his father Marlin. It’s been thirteen years since this Great Barrier Reef duo appeared on our cinema screens with Finding Nemo, and their return is sure to invigorate young adults nostalgic about the early 2000s.
As the title suggests though, Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane’s Finding Dory is barely concerned with our clownfish friends, who take the aquatic equivalent of a back seat. Instead, Californian Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) is our new hero – travelling half the ocean to find the parents she barely remembers. It’s a familiar storyline, but the Disney adventure genre has always been about the chaotic journey rather than the predictable destination.
Finding Dory takes a while to find its pace, only emerging as a film independent of its original after about ten minutes. The opening scenes are laced in nostalgia, both for Dory (who we meet as a child fish) and the audience. The moment when Dory meets Marlin (Albert Brooks) for the first time is a welcome flashback, but re-adjusting to Dory’s frustrating short-term memory loss is an early chore that does little to get us on the side of the sequel’s protagonist.
Memory remains a consistent theme of the story, and thankfully the writers find a way to use Dory’s disability (and her occasional memory triumphs) in a clever narrative manner. Rather than hitting us in the head with tiring “I forget” humour, Dory’s memory problems advance the plot and offer timely laughs. It’s not quite Memento underwater, but Dory’s biggest weakness ultimately becomes one of the film’s strengths.
It’s a fitting theme for the film given that older fans of the original film are likely to pay their respects. Just as Dory catches glimpses of her past, so too will fans appreciate the occasional throwbacks to Finding Nemo. The best one takes place after the credits are over, asking for just a tiny bit more patience in fans who have already waited thirteen years.
In classic Pixar fashion, Finding Dory takes advantage of its oceanic setting by introducing us to a number of quotable sidekicks. The lazy walruses (voiced by Idris Elba and Dominic West) are a made child-pleaser, as is Bailey the neurotic beluga whale (Ty Burrell). But Hank the Octopus (Ed O’Neill) easily takes the cake for best new character. His chameleon-like ability to mimic his surroundings is only matched by his deadpan personality. The fact that you’ll see these characters flogged in shopping centre catalogues for the next few months is a reminder that this film is ultimately one for the kids, but that shouldn’t stop old-timers returning for another swim.
Finding Dory is in Australian cinemas from 16th June through Disney.