When it comes to animated classics, Finding Nemo is about as timeless and masterful as they come - up there alongside the best of Pixar's films. 13 years since it first made its splash, the studio have now released the sequel: Finding Dory. From this year's Edinburgh Film Festival, here's my review.

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One of the first ever Pixar films I can actually remember going to the cinemas to see was Finding Nemo, back when it first opened in 2003. The film was a masterpiece. Not only did it tell a beautiful, fun story but it also pushed the boundaries visually, for its stunning animation. Even today, the film still holds up and is one of my favourite Pixar films. Now, the studio don't exactly have the best track records when it comes to sequels and I just generally wasn't too excited for Finding Dory; if anything, I was sceptical for it. However, the film screened at EIFF and I can wholeheartedly say, this is one of Pixar's best sequels yet - perhaps just below Toy Story 2 and 3. Finding Dory re-captures the heart of the original whilst never feeling like its treading the same material. This is a funny, wondrous and beautiful animation. This is Pixar at their best.
The film begins with the returning Dory (voiced, once again, by Ellen DeGeneres) as a child, with her parents Jenny (Diane Keaton) and Charlie (Eugene Levy) talking to her about her short-term memory loss. However, she mysteriously loses them and heads out all over the ocean in search for them but, as time progresses, showing Dory age over the years, she soon begins to forget just what it is she is looking for: "Can you help me? I'm looking for something. I'm just not sure what." Going from fish to fish, asking the same question, she gets nowhere and then bumps into a clownfish looking for his soon and we're shown just how Dory meets Marlin (Albert Brooks), this time seen from her perspective. Skip ahead a year, now after the events of Finding Nemo, and Dory, Marlin and Nemo (Hayden Rolence) are enjoying a quiet life, post-Ocean adventure. But, when our forgetful Blue Tang begins to get fragmented memories of her parents, she sets out to try and find them. With Nemo and Marlin joining her, the trio soon end up at the Marine Life Institute with new characters like slick octopus Hank (Ed O'Neill), lovable whale shark Destiny (Kaitlin Olson) and the hilarious beluga whale Bailey (Ty Burrell) all along for the ride too, helping Dory find her parents.

The film is quick to establish the narrative and get things underway; it's an easier task considering there's not much of a back story for Dory's character but we're drip fed little pieces of information about her past as the film progresses. Whilst DeGeneres' lovable, forgetful fish was the standout in Finding Nemo, my main worry going into this film was, would she be able to carry a whole film by herself without getting too annoying or losing her spark? Yes. Dory can carry an entire film and fairly well too. You find yourself really rooting for her to succeed and empathising with her and feeling for her when she forgets things and gets stick from others as a result. Finding Dory brings back a lot of familiar faces, the most prominent two being Nemo and Marlin and, again, we care for these characters and their father-son relationship as we did last time. There are also plenty of new faces here too, all of which are great. Andrew Stanton - who wrote and directed the picture - and Victoria Strouse - who co-wrote - have crafted such well-realised, developed, ironically human characters within these sea creatures and we fall for their wit and charm. Ed O'Neill's octopus Hank is definitely the standout, so cool and reserved but lovable and warm at the same time. The voice acting across the board is superb too; DeGeneres is cast to perfection as the bouncy Dory; Albert Brooks is great again as Marline; we also have the likes of Ty Burrell, Idris Elba and O'Neill all giving strong vocal performances - fitting their respective characters quite perfectly.
The heart of this sea-quel (see what I did there?) lies within Dory, however, and her adventure. As I've already mentioned, you really find yourself caring for the Blue Tang as she heads out in pursuit of her family. It's a tender and heart-warming adventure that is tons of fun to watch; the pace rarely lets up for even a second and Stanton just keeps things going. The screenplay is smart and sharp too and also packs plenty of laughs, from funny visual gags to some more adult-oriented jokes too, which don't stop either. I found myself constantly chuckling throughout - with a couple of scenes earning big laughs too. It's not all just rollicking fun though and, as we'd expect from a Pixar film, Finding Dory will tug at the heartstrings. The opening is heart-breaking and it's the smaller, character beats with Dory that will hit you in the feels. The visuals are also astounding and the bright colour palette is vibrant and exuberant. The animation looks gorgeous, so colourful and slick; with some stunning shots of the ocean almost looking real as we are soaked in by this film.

Pixar don't have the best track record with their sequels so there was a lot of worry that Finding Dory would tread the same material as Finding Nemo but it doesn't really. There are certainly some purposeful, witty call-backs to the original and you can't help but feel that, on occasion, the film does perhaps hit similar beats to its predecessor but, for the most part, Finding Dory feels new and fresh and stands out for its own merits. It's by no means as masterful as the 2003 Pixar classic - it never quite hits us with sadness or emotion that one does and it never feels so wholly perfect - but that was a high bar to reach anyway. The finale does begin to drag a little when it seems as though the film is ending several times only to keep going again, before arriving at a bit more of an abrupt conclusion, and it does take a while for the film to find its footing at first. However, when it does, it's utterly brilliant. Finding Dory is everything you want from a Pixar film. It boasts a lovable, charming heart as big as its stellar voice cast and is oozing with adorableness; the film is hilarious and sweet and will have you smiling throughout but it's well-earned. This is one of Pixar's finest sequels yet and is tons of fun to watch, as the studio return to form. It's definitely a worthy successor to Nemo though.

FINDING DORY OPENS IN THE UK ON JULY 29TH, 2016.

VERDICT:
Finding Dory is a funny, sweet and heart-warming animation that manages to re-capture the heart and spirit of its predecessor. Whilst it's by no means the masterpiece the original was, it is a charming, fun adventure and a great film nonetheless. Pixar have done it again.




About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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