Finding Dory has made a splash in Australian cinemas these school holidays, but does it live up to the 2003 smash hit, Finding Nemo?
As I walked into the cinema early and took my seat to watch the highly anticipated children’s film at the unconventional time-slot of 8:50pm, I was one of the only five people there – and we were all aged in our 20s. Considering the film’s target audience were close to their bedtimes I was relatively unsurprised by the turnout. However, by the time the opening credits rolled in there was no longer an empty seat in the house. Clearly the success of Finding Nemo created a loyal fan-base who are no longer children. This brought me to a realisation that despite making family-friendly films, Disney and Pixar truly possess an ageless appeal.
I would have been 10 years old when Finding Nemo came out so I was intrigued as to what Pixar had in store for the sequel. I was not disappointed: I found the film to be extremely funny and breathtakingly beautiful when tackling its subject matter. The film cannot be viewed as just a children’s movie; it is also a delightful exploration of the importance of friends and what it means to truly belong to something.
I have always considered myself to be an extremely cynical person. I dress only in black and enjoy music and films that explore dark and gritty themes. The idea of excessive happiness in any artistic medium leads me to instant boredom and a complete lack of interest. However, one exception to this usually bleak outlook is anything related to The Walt Disney Company.
Like any child of the ’90s I grew up watching classics such as Aladdin, Toy Story and The Lion King, the latter of which I still regard as one of the greatest films created. Disney explores a magical world where anything is possible. It has perfected a formula that has been maintained since its first feature film Snow White (1937).
Each Disney film begins in tragedy, whether it be the death of a parent or other grim circumstances that lead to a yearning to find a sense of belonging in an otherwise lonely world. It is inevitably through the magic of friendship that each protagonist eventually finds a happy ending and a sense of purpose. Everyone can relate to loneliness and hard times and everyone has an innate desire to one day find their own happy ending. This is why Disney has the power to resonate with everyone.
Finding Dory is no exception to this. What originally started as a running gag in the first Finding Nemo regarding Dory’s short-term memory loss became a heartbreaking character trait that led the likeable blue and yellow fish to a state of loneliness and a complete loss of identity after she became separated from a family that she loved, but could no longer remember. However it is through her many adventures and her connection to her friends that she is able to find her own sense of purpose. The movie teaches us that, despite our flaws and limitations, we all have something within us that makes us special.
The film is visually stunning, with ocean floor landscapes of breathtaking detail. Pixar is the master of crafting unique and creative worlds and its vision of the natural wonders that exist underwater is groundbreaking. With every new release it reinforces its position as the king of animation.
There are some casting decisions so perfect that no other actor could possibly fit the role. The likes of Heath Ledger and Anthony Hopkins will go down as history as the perfect casting choices for The Joker and Hannibal Lector respectively, forever synonymous with their portrayal of those iconic characters.
I have never been a fan Ellen DeGeneres. I have always seen her as being extremely irritating and sickeningly positive. However, it seems there is no one more suited to the role of Dory. Her comedic timing is impeccable and her personal connection to the character is crystal clear. It isn’t hard to see why someone who takes such pride in her homosexual identity would be able to relate to a character searching for a sense of identity. She gives an unforgettable performance as a fish that possesses a 30-second memory span.
As is consistent with every Pixar movie, the film is riddled with colourful and funny supporting characters. The best is Hank the Octopus, voiced by Ed O’Neil of Modern Family fame, a character so engaging and funny that I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing a Finding Hank movie in the future. Other notable performances include Kaitlin Olsen as the vision-impaired whale shark Destiny, and Bailey the beluga whale voiced by Ty Burrell.
The film was much more than just a retreading of what made the first Finding Nemo so successful. It is in itself a completely self-contained story that kids today can enjoy without the nostalgia that drew in its older audience. It perfectly captures the universal themes that make Disney the stand-out movie studio when it comes to family entertainment.
I rate it a must-see, not just for people who enjoy family movies, but also for anyone who enjoys a well-crafted cinematic experience. It is a film with more heart than an octopus, which, as the film assures us, has three. – Jameel Khan
Promotional image by Pixar Animation Studios.