REVIEW / ANIMATION FINDING DORY (PG)
103 minutes/Opens tomorrow/3.5/5 stars
The story: In this sequel to the beloved animated hit Finding Nemo (2003), blue tang Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) sets off in search of her parents with clownfish Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence). She gets help from octopus Hank (Ed O'Neill), whale shark Destiny (Kaitlin Olson) and beluga whale Bailey (Ty Burrell) along the way.
Pixar achieved the rare feat of making sequels that are even better than the original with the Toy Story series (1995 to 2010), but the animation company is not immune to the law of sub-par seconds, seen in Cars 2 (2011) and Monsters University (2013).
Finding Dory is a solid piece of all-ages entertainment, but in depth of emotion, it does not reach the standard set by predecessor Finding Nemo (2003).
In Nemo, the love of a parent for his child was cast into an adventure story. The same concept is used in this spin-off, but this time, it is the child seeking the parents.
Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres), the amnesiac blue tang from the first film, sees flashes of her past, which drive her to the California coast.
She is helped by clownfish Nemo (Hayden Rolence) and his father Marlin (Albert Brooks, returning), and creatures ranging from Cockney sealions (Idris Elba and Dominic West) to Hank, an octopus with a missing tentacle (Ed O'Neill, from television's Modern Family).
Andrew Stanton, who co-helmed the original movie, returns, aided by feature newcomer Angus MacLane. They and the writers have expunged nearly all sense of threat from the new movie.
Finding Nemo begins with deaths in a barracuda attack, follows up with a shark in a feeding frenzy, then moves on to an aquarium overseen by a sadistic child.
Dory, on the other hand, grapples more with her internal disabilities than with keeping herself safe from sharp teeth or evil kids.
This formula - that the bogeymen of cowardice and sloth are greater obstacles to happiness than stranger danger - bears more than a passing resemblance to those in The Good Dinosaur (2015).
Is this the new Pixar way? It might indeed be more helpful and realistic to ask that we first slay the dragons within, but this psychological approach to adventure storytelling feels too literal, more patronising.
There is only so much you can do with quirky supporting characters and sight gags involving a shape-changing octopus.
Give us our villains back, please, the nastier, the better.