Finding Dory

Director: Andrew Stanton (2016) BBFC cert U

After storming the US box office this underwater animated adventure finally arrives in the UK and is full of fintastic summer fun for the little ones.

A superior sequel to Finding Nemo (2003), it’s exciting, warm and optimistic. Pixar’s visual creatives demonstrate their astonishingly high levels of technical ability, bathing scenes in breathtaking pools of beauty.

The inclusivity, subtle eco warnings and traditional message of achieving one’s potential complement and provide an anchor to the nonstop knockabout action scenes.

Stanton’s directorial career hit tremendous heights with A Bug’s Life (1998), Finding Nemo (2003) and Wall-E (2007), before his career stalled with the overly maligned mega budget flop John Carter (2012). Now combining writing duties with direction, Stanton has delivered an absolute charmer.

Set a year after the original box office smash Finding Nemo, an accident leaves forgetful fish Dory suffering flashbacks of her long lost parents.

When Dory sets off on a perilous journey to be reunited with them, she finds herself on a voyage of self discovery, steering through deep and dark currents on the way.

Ellen DeGeneres is the emotional centre of the film as the voice of Dory, essaying a quiet change from annoyingly needy to gently confident. Female characters are generally more proactive, resourceful and inspirational than the men.

Along for the ride are her friends Nemo and his over-protective father Marlin. Hayden Rolence and Albert Brooks buddy up nicely as the clownfish.

Their expedition leads the trio to a marine sea life rescue institute in California. Once inside they inventively navigate their way via water pipes, buckets, cups and a coffee pot. Even the best intentioned of the humans are hazardous and the children especially so.

Sigourney Weaver cameos as the intercom announcer on the institute’s PA system. Her messianic delivery offers a zealous refrain of ‘rescue, rehabilitation and release’.

We’re treated to familiar faces from the first film such as the surfer turtles and Brit actors Idris Elba and Dominic West are the voices of bullying sea lions.

Sporting a variety of physical and mental disabilities, creatures of different species come harmoniously together to make a significant contribution to Dory’s quest. They are defined by their loyalty and bravery not their disabilities or the colour of their fins.

As well as Dory’s memory issues and Nemo’s underdeveloped fin, Hank the octopus is missing a tentacle, a whale shark is near-sighted, a beluga whale has lost his echolocation and a common loon called Becky has vision issues. Loon is a type of bird, I’m not being nasty.

An adoryable tale from start to finish.





The Good Dinosaur

Director: Peter Sohn (2015)

As plodding as the hero of the title, this prehistoric animated adventure is occasionally exciting, funny and sad, but never in any great measure.

Made by Pixar and released by Disney, it’s a middling effort which has made it to the screen after a difficult production.

History was changed 65 million years when an asteroid didn’t hit the earth and wipe out the dinosaurs.

They’ve evolved to speak, build houses and grow crops.

Arlo is a cowardly and dim Apatosaurus who after some reckless parenting, is lost in the wilderness.

He’s befriended by a brave caveboy nicknamed Spot and together they set off on the long trek home.

Raymond Ochoa whines and whimpers as Arlo and Jack Bright grunts and howls as Spot.

Episodic adventures follow one another and we’re invited to admire the magnificent vistas on the way. They are epic in scale, beauty and frequency.

Credited as ‘Volumetric Cloud Supervisor’, Matthew Webb does a stand up job styling the weather.

Meanwhile the sweeping herds of prehistoric wildebeests are sufficient to placate even the most intemperate guests of Torquay hoteliers.

There’s an unfortunate contrast between the stunning photo-realistic backgrounds and the cartoon cast of rubbery skinned, glass eyed dinosaurs of uncertain charm.

It’s distracting, as if Mickey Mouse popped up in a David Attenborough documentary.

The first director was sacked halfway through, the script was re-written and the cast almost completely replaced.

One character says ‘we must gather our crops before the first winter storm’ immediately after a winter storm. Just one example of a failure to iron out all the issues.

Minor characters are churned through the script before being forgotten.

With all this in mind it’s a marvel the film is as competent as it is.

Kids will love the game of whack-a-mole and adults will grin at the magic mushrooms reminiscent of Dumbo (1941).

Parenting orders are hammered home in heavy handed homilies by Jeffrey Wright‘s daddy dinosaur.

Obey your parents. Do your chores. Don’t play in the river. Do kill your enemies. Not very Disney that last one.

I felt lectured and wanted to rebel. And I’m a parent. Lord knows how children will respond to this.

There’s a strong Western vibe as the boy and his dog, sorry, dinosaur and his boy trek home to their farmstead.

As they meet cowboys along the trail, Sam Elliot adds his magnificent Texas drawl to a tall-tale telling Tyrannosaurus Rex.

He’s called Butch, a sly reference to the actor’s cameo in the classic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969).

The Good Dinosaur is neither brilliant or awful. Good is the operative word.

Inside Out

Director: Pete Docter (2015)

Take an emotional trip through the mind of an ordinary girl in this worthy animation from Pixar.

The studio made the brilliant Toy Story trilogy but their most recent offering Monster’s University (2013) was mediocre at best.

Director Pete Docter was Oscar nominated for Up (2009) but hasn’t achieved the same heights here.

Inside Out is busy, colourful and undeniably ambitious and clever. The animation and design are excellent.

But it’s so well intentioned and keen to educate they forgot to make it particularly funny, engaging or exciting.

Eleven year old Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) has moved with her parents (Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan) to San Francisco.

Riley’s emotions are represented by five brightly coloured characters: Joy, Sadness, Fear, Anger and Disgust (Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling) .

They occupy her mind and dictate her moods and behaviour.

None of them are particularly likeable as they scream, shriek and squabble inside Riley’s brain – or the head-quarters as they call it.

Due to a secure and rural childhood, Joy is Riley’s dominant emotion. She’s bossy, hyperactive, manipulative, mendacious and far from endearing as the film imagines.

As Riley struggles with the trauma of a new city, house and school, Joy and Sadness are lost in the nether reaches of her brain.

The mismatched pair begin a perilous journey to HQ through the various areas of Riley’s subconsciousness and must learn to accept each other and learn it’s ok to be sad sometimes.

They encounter some mildly amusing creatures, of whom Bing Bong (Richard Kind) – Riley’s long forgotten imaginary friend – is the most fun.

Among the different environments are Imagination Land and Abstract Thought. There’s a very self-referential and Hollywood parody in the brain’s Dream Factory.

Meanwhile Fear, Anger and Disgust are left in charge – with predictably unhappy results.

There’s a definite sense of a concept tail wagging the dog of the story. Watching this movie is akin to being smacked around the head by a day glo psychology book. Or being given homework and told to have fun.

Plus for a lengthy part of the film Riley is a puppet, dangling at the command of her emotions. Similarly we can see the emotional strings the film uses to manipulate us.

And there are inconsistencies such as mum and dad’s emotions being appropriately gendered but Riley’s are male and female.

The wait for Pixar’s next feature length masterpiece continues.

The pre-feature short is a masterful musical called Lava, an intimate epic about singing volcanoes which overshadows the main event.