Finding Nemo is one of Pixar’s finest films, elbowing for space in the upper echelons of their output alongside Toy Story 3, Up and Inside Out. Brimming with wit, adventure, poignancy, and a stupendous cast of characters, it introduced us to Dory, a pacific regal blue tang with short-term memory loss. Voiced wonderfully by Ellen DeGeneres, Dory was the comedic sidekick, her forgetfulness a constant source of laughs.
In Finding Dory’s opening scene, Pixar have yet again created another one of those intros that goes straight for the heart. We meet Dory as an infant with her parents, voiced by Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy, as they try to teach her to navigate life in the ocean with her condition. Irrespective of them being fish, in this moment they are real world parents raising a child with learning difficulties. Director Andrew Stanton and his co-writers have taken what made Dory funny in the first film, and given it a relevance to parents and children alike that is both heart-breaking, and a genius piece of screenwriting. What if she gets lost? What if we lose sight of her? What if she forgets who we are?
Needless to say she does get lost, and spends the rest of the opening montage looking for someone as she grows up, but she can’t remember whom. Then she bumps into Marlin (Albert Brooks) and off they go to find Nemo. We pick up the action one year later, when a rush of memories from a place she once lived leads Dory to believe that her family might be there too. That place is the Marine Life Institute in California.
A terrific and thrilling adventure ensues, and they are helped on their quest by a glorious cast of new characters. These include a grumpy octopus (Ed O’Neill) who just wants to retire to an aquarium in Cleveland, a near-sighted whale shark (Kaitlin Olson), a beluga whale with echolocation issues (Ty Burrell) and two hilarious cockney sea-lions voiced by Idris Elba and Dominic West.
There are wonderful sequences of startling invention, such as the moment we see the world from Dory’s perspective, or the nightmare spell in the “Touching Pool”, that is played like a horror movie. A starfish screams in terror as a giant hand drags it off into the darkness like the final scene in REC!
As always with Pixar, it is in their handling of complex themes and emotional heft where the film truly shines. Effortlessly tapping into the primal fears of parenthood (losing a child) and likewise childhood (separation from parents), and the classic Pixar trope of displacement, they make sense of these feelings with such control over their art. With Studio Ghibli no longer making films, Pixar now stand on their own in this field.
It goes without saying that the animation is extraordinary, from the tiniest grains of sand on the ocean floor, to the swaying forests of kelp, every frame is rendered to beautiful, awe-inspiring perfection. We have become so used to Pixar’s digital artistry that the stunning imagery is almost an afterthought when watching these films. Hilarious and full of heart, see it on the biggest screen possible and marvel at its beauty.
As an added bonus, the film is screening with a new Pixar short film called Piper, about a young seabird’s tentative first steps outside the nest. It is a joyous little film, and perhaps the most adorable five minutes of animation you will ever see.