Alex Casey is a staff writer for New Zealand pop culture-obsessed website The Spinoff and columnist for the NZ Herald.

Movie review: Finding Dory

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Dory, voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, in a scene from Finding Dory.
Dory, voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, in a scene from Finding Dory.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, along comes another troupe of incredibly cute anthropomorphised sea creatures to make you feel bad about enjoying a spot of sashimi every now and again. Finish that Filet O' Fish before you read any further: Finding Dory, the sequel to 2003's Disney/Pixar smash hit Finding Nemo, has finally swum on to the big screen after years of anticipation.

It has people in their 20s clambering over toddlers to get front-row seats, overcome by the heady power of childhood nostalgia. Honestly, not since Toy Story 3 have I seen so many adults take to Facebook and admonish anyone younger than them for enjoying a sequel without having "been there" for the first. But regardless of whether you are a stunted adult or an ignorant baby, Finding Dory delivers an ocean of opportunity for all.

The story picks up after the events of Finding Nemo, when Dory finds herself experiencing something that has never happened to her before: a memory of her parents. In flashbacks we are reminded frequently that she suffers from "short term remembery loss".

Despite her frustrating impairment making it difficult to do almost anything for more than a minute, Dory heads out into the great unknown to find her Mum and Dad at a marine research facility. Nemo and Marlin join her, running into old favourites and fresh fishy faces along the way. Ellen DeGeneres returns to voice our chirpy hero, with vocal cameos from Idris Elba, Sigourney Weaver and an outstanding Ed O'Neill as a very grouchy octopus.

So, how does it compare to its predecessor? Finding Dory, perhaps in a similar vein to this year's forward-thinking Zootopia, ventures into some interesting social territories where Finding Nemo did not. Where Nemo's weakness to overcome was physical, Dory's is much more imperceptible. She is an outsider, harder to understand in a society of confident surfer turtles and boisterous brown seals. At not much of a stretch, it could be considered a parable for how a communiy chooses to support - or cast out - those living with a mental illness.

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As reported by the Los Angeles Times, the ending of the film was also altered by the studio after the release of the 2013 Seaworld expose documentary Blackfish. Wanting to distance themselves from glamorising the captivity of marine life, it was made explicitly clear that the marine research facility worked with a goal of releasing all its sea life. The ecological message is enforced with the presence of gross human detritus littering the otherwise typically stunning rendering of the undersea world. I don't remember Nemo getting stuck in a plastic six pack beer ring.

The internet is alight with speculation that Finding Dory features the first gay couple in Disney/Pixar history. If it is true, blink and you'll miss it. Instead of this majestic gay reveal being between Dory and her whale shark friend Destiny - something I was holding out for until the bitter end - it's a simple flash of two women peering into a pram. One of them has a short haircut and holds the other one's arm, two factors making fans froth with excitement. Despite rampant rumours there remains no confirmation from the studio, and DeGeneres found the notion that a lesbian couple must have at least one "short, bad haircut" offensive.

The answer remains at sea whether or not Finding Dory has made history - but there's no denying that it has certainly made a splash in the meantime.

Rated G
Screening now

- Spy.co.nz

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