Water wonderful world
FINDING DORY (TBA)
Marlin (Albert Brooks) the timid clownfish and Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) the absent-minded regal blue tang are close friends and neighbours one year after finding the former's son, Nemo (Hayden Rolence).
Their peaceful existence on the Great Barrier Reef is interrupted when an accident triggers Dory's long-forgotten memories of her parents.
The trio travel to California's Monterey Marine Life Institute - a rehabilitation centre and aquarium - where Dory believes her parents still live.
With the help of Hank (Ed O'Neill), a grouchy septopus; Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), a nearsighted whale shark; and Bailey (Ty Burrell), a lazy beluga whale, Dory has to navigate the labyrinthine hallways and tanks of the institute if she wants to see her loved ones again.
REMEMBER when Finding Nemo came out? I do, I was a young teen then. It was the first Pixar movie to make me cry and I've been a fan of the studio ever since.
Now, 13 years on, the Em-eryville studio has waded back into familiar waters with the lovable chatterbox - she has the most likes on Facebook of any Disney or Pixar character at about 25.1 million - getting her own story. This time, it's Marlin and Nemo who have to look for Dory, who has been abducted by the institute's scientists.
But don't let the title fool you; this tale is really about the eponymous fish's quest to be reunited with her parents. It's also a journey of self-discovery and acceptance for Dory who, much like Po in the Kung Fu Panda trilogy (2008-16), grew up not knowing the parents she lost.
Those expecting another undersea voyage like the first film will be disappointed as most of the film takes place in the institute. But this fish-out-of-water scenario has its own challenges: Dory, Marlin and Nemo have to move through the complex via pipes and water receptacles; one wrong move and they'll be stranded on dry land.
At every turn, Dory's short-term memory loss and naivety jeapordise her mission. But her determination and optimism, summed up in her "just keep swimming" mantra, keep her and her friends - old and new - going.
Hank is the standout new character, an escape artist who cuts a deal with Dory to take her to her parents' home in exchange for a tag that could secure him a life in solitude at a Cleveland aquarium.
The septopus' animosity towards humans is understandable (there's a reason he has only seven arms) but his reluctance to return to the wild is never explained. His camouflage and contortion skills provide much of the film's physical comedy.
The buoyant supporting cast - Destiny, Bailey, Becky the loon (named after one of the film's production managers) and a pair of sea lions voiced by The Wire's Idris Elba and Dominic West - have their quirks, but aren't as memorable as the "fish are not food" shark trio or Tank Gang in Finding Nemo.
Co-director and co-writer Andrew Stanton - who also helmed Wall-E, my favourite Pixar film - returns as the voice of Crush the turtle.
He and co-director Angus MacLane deliver a touching parable on unconditional love and the unbreakable bonds of family, blood-related or otherwise.
Some might see young Dory and her parents' struggle with her mental handicap as a parable for the challenges of raising a special-needs child, and adult Dory's resilience an allegory for the daily triumph against adversity for those with disabilities.
Like Finding Nemo, the film doesn't have a major antagonist, so much of the dramatic tension is from situational peril. There is also suspense over where Dory's parents are and what has happened to them.
Just before the third act, the rug is pulled out from under Dory and her anguish and despair are heartrending. The climax is also riveting as the team work together to achieve a common goal, culminating with a surreal, slow-motion sequence to Louis Armstrong's What A Wonderful World.
Ultimately, Finding Dory doesn't have the immersive undersea world nor emotional depth of the first film. But if you're a fan of Finding Nemo or the earnest fish with a memory like a sieve, this is the funny and heartfelt sequel you're looking for.
Don't miss the adorable opening short Piper and stay till Pixar mascot Luxo Jr's outro for a post-credits scene.