13 years after the original, Pixar have revived one of their most precious properties - Finding Nemo - and centred a sequel on the hugely popular side character, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres).
It's been a whole year since Nemo (Hayden Rolence) and his father, Marlin (Albert Brooks), were torn apart and whisked away on an adventure down through the Great Barrier Reef and into Sydney Harbour. Contentedly living back on the Reef with their forgetful friend Dory, the two colourful clownfish decide to accompany their blue tang buddy when she decides to follow her gut feelings and search for her parents, whom she was mistakenly separated from at a young age.
However, somewhere along the way, Dory finds herself separated from Marlin and thrust into an aquarium along with a host of strange new friends; Hank the Octopus (Ed O'Neill), Destiny the whale shark (Kaitlin Olson) and Bailey the beluga (Ty Burrell).
Pixar's track record with sequels has been somewhat tainted in recent times; the brilliance of Toy Story 2 and 3 has been counteracted by the middling Monsters University and the disinterest older audiences held for Cars 2. And even though it fails to eclipse its predecessor (let's be honest, that's practically impossible), Finding Dory does rate as one of Pixar's better sequels to date.
First of all, it's a wonderful feeling to be back alongside these cherished characters once again; Dory, Marlin, Nemo, Crush and Squirt are all back in some capacity and just as adorable and entertaining as we remember them. Obviously, the focus shifts across to Dory this time. Her upgraded status from supporting to lead isn't to the films detriment; director Andrew Stanton handles her condition and her character development with gentleness and care. Rather than annoy, Dory's increased presence affords her greater depth; Stanton builds on the theme of family and showcases the importance of the family we choose as well as those who bring us into this world. DeGeneres' eager voicework is a winner also.
Hank is the new supporting character who steals the show; his wry humour and brusque tone (perfectly delivered by Ed O'Neill) make him an entertaining 'straight guy' opposite Dory's inherent wackiness. Ty Burrell's disheartened beluga whale Bailey is another brilliant addition, as is Idris Elba's gruff sea lion. Ah, who am I kidding - there are so many brilliant new supporting characters that it's impossible to mention them all. Even Sigourney Weaver gets an amusing cameo - but I won't spoil the nature of it here.
As we've come to expect from Pixar, Finding Dory looks amazing. Drop dead gorgeous in fact. The colourful corals and vivid vistas are some of the brightest and most photorealistic Pixar has ever composed. It doesn't really need repeating at this point, but Pixar really does outclass the rest of the field when it comes to creating colourful, fluid and eye-popping animation that kids are just going to soak up.
My biggest issue with the film is how similar certain elements feel when compared with the first movie. When both films open with gut-wrenching flashbacks to lost parents, it's hard to look past it. But that's just Pixar being Pixar; if you're not reaching for a hankie after the first 10 minutes, you're not watching a Pixar film.
That being said, the first act of Finding Dory takes a while to find its feet (or is that fins?). I was onboard, but it wasn't until the second act gets going that I genuinely had fun with this film. Once Dory and co. arrive at the aquarium where the bulk of the story takes place, the film finds a new gear and doesn't let up.
Oh, and make sure you stick around until after the credits too!
The Verdict: 8/10
Heartfelt and tender, Finding Dory is an insightful and intelligent examination of family, parenting, disability and determination all wrapped up in a colourful bundle of fish, whales and octopuses. The first act struggles to distinguish itself, but the fantastic finale will make you laugh, cry and then laugh some more.
Finding Dory is in cinemas across Australia from today