Starring: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brookes, Ed O’Neill, Hayden Rolence

Director: Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane

97 minutes

It’s been thirteen eventful animated years since Pixar sandwiched a movie about a lost little clownfish between Monsters Inc. and downtrodden superhero family The Incredibles. Finding Dory follows Nemo’s dippy forgetful best mate Dory (DeGeneres) as she clumsily goes about her progressively frustrating daily life following her little orange buddy’s oceanic adventures.

As Dory starts to recollect snippets of her childhood, she sets off to find her parents with Nemo and his long-suffering dad Marlin (Brookes) in tow. Constant flashbacks progressively set the story as she is captured by a marine conservation unit and makes friends with agoraphobic octopus Hank (O’Neill) (technically a septopus due to the loss of an arm) who is desperate not to be released back into the wild. Hank agrees to help her find her family on the proviso that she gives him her tag which will allow him to be transferred to another unit rather than face the open water again.

Finding Dory is by-the-book emotional tension; the lost family, the desperation for the need of togetherness, the unlikely friendships. It all works exactly as expected. Young Dory’s eyes couldn’t be any bigger if strangled by a Man-o-war; audible child ‘Aww’s augment every flashback scene.

There’s an unsurprisingly nice outsider edge to Finding Dory (every single Pixar film is basically about an outsider don’t forget). Dory’s forgetfulness is tolerated by her peers but the self-awareness she has for her condition is something that most children (and adults) will relate to at some point in their lives. Yet this disability is never mawkish, Dory’s strong character always forces her to battle against it but at no point does it feel that she is set out to be an inspiration or a martyr. This, of course, is Pixar’s strength; transporting the delicate struggles of powerlessness to the forefront without resorting to fist-pumping sentimentality. It’s easy to take this for granted.

The only complaint about Finding Dory is that it never truly takes off. It’s good, a really nice outing for the kids with solid characters and a quick moving narrative over a sensible running time, but it never plucks the heart-strings as we know Pixar are capable of doing (anyone who can watch the first 10 minutes of Up without being reduced to a blubbering mess has a heart of igneous gabbro). Summer holidays see a mass of animated releases and Finding Dory is probably the best of the bunch so far, yet a niggle exists that it could have been so much better.

Finding Dory never really makes an effort to get out of second gear. It’s a beautiful looking sequel which the kids will love, but you get the impression this was a Pixar-by-numbers affair. It’s impossible to fault but simply doesn’t have the edge of Pixar’s optimum output of an Inside Out or Toy Story 2. What is certainly worth a view is the five minute short before the main film starts. The quality of the animation in Piper is quite frankly mind-blowing and sets a tantalising benchmark for their future releases.

6 / 10