Lina Lamont

"What do you think I am, dumb or something?"

Archive for the tag “Sunday Star Times”

Jackie

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 15th January 2017

4.5 stars, Rated M, 99 mins

The first thing that strikes you when watching Natalie Portman on screen as Jackie Kennedy is that the actress must have done her homework. Portman, an Oscar winner for Black Swan who has forged a reputable career since she debuted at age 12 in Leon: The Professional, took a break from Hollywood to complete a psychology degree at Harvard because she considers being smart more important than being famous. And so, if the strangely accented, halting drawl comes across as a bit mannered in her evocation of JFK’s First Lady, rest assured that Portman will have worked tirelessly for this role, and what we’re seeing is the real deal.

jackie

Jackie is a strange sort of biopic in many ways. Principally, it doesn’t seek to tell the tale from the beginning – we learn nothing of how the socialite met her prince and established the house of Camelot. Instead, the film focuses on the days surrounding JFK’s assassination in Dallas, skipping between Jackie’s interview with a dispassionate reporter (a steely and terrific Billy Crudup) as she conjures up recollections of that dreadful day, and a depiction of the actual event and its immediate aftermath.

With a great cast and evident dedication to accurately relaying history, it’s an often devastating watch. Portman’s superb performance as distraught widow is underscored by the tension between her right to privately grieve and a lack of time in which to do it. The brutal haste with which JFK is succeeded is galling: Vice President and Lady Johnson (a perfect John Carroll Lynch and Beth Grant) make excellent villains as Jackie witnesses his swearing in as President on Air Force One mere hours after the shooting, while she stands dazed in the background.

The other thing that marks Jackie out is director Pablo Larrain’s very particular style of filmmaking. Shot on 16mm film, every frame looks like archive footage from the period (excepting the small quibble that Portman is too beautiful to truly convince as the albeit stylish Jackie O), and several scenes are recreated shot for shot from clips you can view for yourself on YouTube. The production design of the White House and, of course, Jackie’s signature suits are spot-on, while her staffers (Greta Gerwig, Richard E. Grant, both terrific) and brother-in-law Bobby (Peter Sarsgaard) perfectly embody the 1960s in their speech and attitudes.

But above all, this is Portman’s film. With tangible pain, she portrays a woman preoccupied by her husband’s legacy and reputation, while clearly drowning in grief. There is nothing as lonely as the sight of the former First Lady wandering vacantly around the White House in a pink suit stained with her husband’s blood. Harrowing and fascinating, Jackie is a beautiful, painful throwback to a terrible moment in history.

The Edge of Seventeen

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 8th January 2017

3 stars, Rated M, 104 mins

When you’re a teenager, films about teenagers totally speak to you. You’re like “OMG, finally!” Someone who understands what it’s like dealing with raging hormones and being unpopular and the traumas of high school life is putting all that up on the big screen and showing you it’s all gonna be OK.

edge-of-seventeen

If you’re reading this as a child of the John Hughes era, you know what I’m talking about. Hughes was a grown-up filmmaker with an incredible memory of what it was like to be young. His films may have been all-American but his characters were universal. Or at least, aspirational. He gave us losers who became winners in their own way. That’s still an important message for the youth of today.

To this end, The Edge of Seventeen will speak to today’s teens and they should totally go see it. If, however, you find the whole teenage thing too angsty to take seriously, or too excruciating to revisit, you may want to give it a miss.

Written and directed by relative newcomer Kelly Fremon Craig, the film stars True Grit’s Hailee Steinfeld as the fraught Nadine, who lives in the shadow of her football-playing stud of an older brother (Blake Jenner from Everybody Wants Some!!) and therefore falls apart emotionally when her best friend Krista and brother fall in love. Nadine is the type of teen we all recognise (and since I work with hundreds of teens every day, I see her in many of them) – earnest about the state of the world and her place in it; anxious about fitting in socially; smart and perceptive; and she has a great wardrobe of hi-top sneakers. (Actually, the sneakers are my favourite thing about her.)

Steinfeld plays Nadine the only way she possibly can with such an on-the-nose script – slightly over-the-top, eye-rollingly dry, lots of “OMG!” moments that verge on slapstick. Woody Harrelson provides a nice counterpoint as the very still, ironic teacher to whom Nadine takes all her problems. Harrelson says all the things teachers cannot, but wish they could, say. (Cute as it appears in the script, no real-life male teacher would read aloud a sexually explicit text message or jokingly encourage suicide.) Their odd-couple tête-à-têtes provide some of the film’s highlights.

But the Best Thing Ever is Hayden Zseto’s unlikely romantic lead, Erwin – the nerdy, easily-flustered classmate who takes a shine to our heroine. Stealing every scene and putting the Adorable into the story, Zseto is going to be a big star.

Overall, the story gets rather tiresome. Don’t get me wrong! I spend all day with teens, and their concerns are real. Just sometimes tiresome. But hopefully watching The Edge of Seventeen will make them feel better.

Passengers

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 1st January 2017

3 stars, Rated M, 116 mins

The set-up for Passengers is pretty great, and the startling setting and gorgeous rendering of space travel initially suggest this is going to be a worthy blockbuster.

The Starship Avalon is on a 120-year journey through space to Homestead II – a new colony to be inhabited by the ship’s 5000 civilians who are seeking a new life away from Earth. Viewers who have flown long-haul in ordinary aeroplanes will be wistful, since these travellers lie in induced hibernation for the duration, scheduled to awaken only at T minus four months in order to enjoy leisure activities such as you’d see on a 6-star cruise ship, and to prepare for their new, Utopian existence.

Unfortunately, something causes passenger Jim Preston (the popularly charismatic Chris Pratt) to wake too soon. Nine decades too soon. Facing a lonely life and certain death before the vessel reaches its destination, Jim’s future now turns on an ethical dilemma.

Passengers’ strong points include its aspirational, futuristic production design and the casting of Jennifer Lawrence against Pratt, which was surely predicted to be chemistry on tap. But better than these two put together is Michael Sheen as the cliché-spouting android bartender. And of course, the interstellar setting promises much, including Gravity-esque space walks and a terrific scene which aptly demonstrates the importance of actual gravity.

passengers

Sadly, despite these wonderful opportunities, the plot lets it down. The initially gripping “How could this happen?” is even tantalisingly dangled in the film’s tagline “There is a reason they woke up”. Well, yes there is – but it turns out it’s not something you can really build a film around. So screenwriter Jon Spaihts (who co-wrote the brilliant Doctor Strange and the disappointing Prometheus) relies heavily on Pratt and Lawrence’s romantic qualities instead. As a result, what could have been exciting like Total Recall or Sunshine (films that this one evokes) instead fails to even reach Titanic heights/depths (another movie alluded to in Passengers – Jim the engineer is a lower class of passenger than Lawrence’s Aurora, and his question “Do you trust me?” is a sure nod to the famous “I’m flying!” scene in the doomed boat drama).

Norwegian director Morten Tyldum made the multi-award nominated The Imitation Game and the terrific Scandi thriller Headhunters, so it was fair to assume he had the chops to handle a big-budget space adventure. Granted, purely as big-screen entertainment, Passengers does deliver some spectacle and engagement – but with a more developed conceit, it would have been great to see what a $110 million budget could really have bought.

 

Paterson

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 1st January 2017

5 stars, Rated M, 118 mins

I’m not the first to rave about Jim Jarmusch’s latest love story, but I’ll tell you why I think it’s sending critics into paroxysms of gratitude and appreciation. Paterson feels like just the antidote we need as 2016 draws the curtain on its decimation of beloved musicians and actors, and its worldwide natural disasters, and is a welcome respite from the cynicism induced by recent months of political absurdity (politicking so absurd that if they made a movie of it, people would accuse it of being unrealistic).

Paterson is named for the titular character as well as the city in New Jersey in which the story is set.  Played by Adam Driver (the indie darling who crossed over into the Star Wars universe to win plaudits as Kylo Ren), he is a gentle-natured chap who gets walked by his pet bulldog; the epitome of the working man, driving buses by day and enjoying a pint of an evening. Less typically, Paterson writes poetry in his lunch breaks, before returning to his sweetly kooky girlfriend (Golshifteh Farahani) whose unconditional support for his extra-curricular creative leanings is immensely touching.

paterson

Director Jarmusch is reportedly uncomfortable shooting sex scenes, so there’s a novel pleasure in watching an understated love affair on screen that eschews carnal simulation for companionable conversations and loving gestures like helping to pack freshly-baked cupcakes for market. Even if Jarmusch’s vampire drama Only Lovers Left Alive made romance more melodramatic (with captivating performances from Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, how could it not?), he has a knack for making the audience care about his characters as much as they patently do each other.

The other joy in Jarmusch’s work is in the details. Amidst scenes of well-observed dialogue, the camera cuts away to sneakered feet dangling on a bus, and photo frames of a character’s past life. Our unlikely protagonist encounters ordinary people who bring his quotidian life unexpected meaning. A carload of street-talkin’, white homeboys warn Paterson unthreateningly about the dangers of getting “dog-jacked”. He takes inspiration from a 12-year old poet. Throughout, Jarmusch’s quiet observations entrance the eye and hook you into the world his characters inhabit. Even when Paterson’s best “work story” is about a bus breaking down, we hang on his every word.

Simultaneously making me want to cry without ever giving me cause, watching Paterson is as soothing as reading a great book while sipping a fine ale on a leisurely afternoon.

The (my) 20 Best Films (ie. the 4.5 & 5-star ones) of 2016 (so last year)

The Best Films of 2016

It’s that time again. Time to look back over one’s top picks of the year, complain about how few masterpieces there were, how much The Franchise Movie seems to be taking over Hollywood, and wonder what on earth Spotlight was about (that film from early 2016 which received 5 stars from me and rave reviews all round).

Herewith, the best films of 2016 as rated by one reviewer in one newspaper in one small country of the film-viewing world. Having been lambasted occasionally for “simply giving her opinion”, it may be timely to remind readers that yes, film criticism is just one person’s view, but that the role entails watching hundreds of films every year and thus building a fairly solid context for judgement. I’ve tried to counter my gut-reaction (Did I feel something? Did I start thinking about dinner? Could the film have done anything better?) with more objective musings about quality of performances/diligence of production aspects/socio-political relevance of narrative. One of my critics (we all have them) pointed out he knows he’s going to think the polar opposite of any opinion I give – but the critic’s role as barometer against which the viewer can make his own decisions is arguably what it’s all about.

Due to space constraints, this is just a Top 20 (although arguably any list of notables is dilluted the longer it goes) so these represent only the 5- and 4.5- star films of my 2016. The absence of other popular critical contenders (La La Land, Arrival, Hell or High Water) is purely down to their having been not quite as strong as the Top 20. And one small confession: the absence from this list of the superb I, Daniel Blake was purely an oversight, having seen it when I was off-duty and not reviewing.

So take with a pinch of salt, or queue these up on Netflix: here are my top 20 flicks of the past year (plus I, Daniel Blake).

  1. Green Room

A bunch of punk-rock musicians take on the murderous might of a skinhead gang led by a disarming Patrick Stewart. So well-written! So breath-holding! So violent! So good I saw it twice just to check my initial proclamations that it would wind up being my Film of the Year. It did.

green-room

  1. The Revenant

Actually, until Green Room, I thought Leo’s dedicated performance (snow-trekking, bear-mauling, beard-growing) as a fur trapper caught up in Alejandro Iñárritu’s long tracking shots was going to take top prize. It’s still the most visually stunning and viscerally compelling film of 2016, and deservedly won three of the year’s top Oscars.

  1. Room

Harrowing and mesmerising in equal measure, Brie Larson indisputably earned her Oscar alongside a preternaturally talented 9-year old, playing a mother and son held captive in one room for several years. As well as being a terrific thriller, the story provoked some fascinating thoughts about how we take our understanding of the world around us for granted.

  1. Zootopia

This animated children’s movie proved far too clever for adults to avoid, with its brilliantly-written subtext of racial profiling and human intolerance. An amazing script, great characterisation (including a plucky bunny who becomes the first female police officer in the titular city) and more cinematic in-jokes than you could spill your popcorn at, Zootopia delivered a timely message with great wit.

zootopia

 

  1. Doctor Strange

Initially wary that Marvel would simply churn out another elongated fight scene of a movie, I should of course have known that Doctor Strange would have me at “Benedict Cumberbatch”. As the misanthropic uber-surgeon brought to his knees by his own hubris, the Brit went subtly American and considerably more spiritual in order to fight the evils of the dark world. A fabulous supporting cast, enormous wit, an excitingly elongated final fight scene – who could ask for anything more?

  1. Spotlight

An awfully long time ago (February, in fact), Spotlight also won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Screenplay of its depiction of the Boston Globe’s investigation into child abuse allegations which overturned the Catholic Church. This wasn’t just a “worthy” movie – it was lauded for doing what the paper’s award-winning journalists achieved by telling an important story with strong performances and a gripping script.

  1. Paterson

Proving that fantastic films don’t need to be flashy, director Jim Jarmusch’s gentle love story of a bus-driving poet (the chameleonic Adam Driver) and his dream-seeking girlfriend living the simple life in New Jersey won accolades and proved that, after a helluva year like 2016, sometimes all we need is love.

  1. Hunt for the Wilderpeople

One of only two films this year I have unreservedly recommended to everyone I know, Wilderpeople unconditionally delighted New Zealand audiences with its odd-couple story of a foster child (break-out star Julian Dennison) and his reluctant guardian (an hilariously gruff Sam Neill) who go on the run from authorities through native bush. Scored to perfection by the Phoenix Foundation and a host of classic pop hits, and directed by Godzone’s beloved Taika “Thor” Waititi, we fell in love with local cinema all over again.

  1. Tickled

The only other “You have to see…” film on my list was David Farrier and Dylan Reeve’s startling documentary which began as an investigation into competitive endurance tickling (yes, that’s a thing) and descended into a bone-chilling commentary on bullying. Not many films can take you from laugh-inducing to adrenaline-pumping, but the Kiwi filmmakers nailed it, before garnering critical acclaim all over the world. If you haven’t already, “you have to see…”

  1. Train to Busan

I’m going to round out my Top Ten with one of the few movies I didn’t review, and went to see just for kicks: a Korean zombie movie, no less, whose plot is as straightforward as its clichéd characters are endearing. Imagine you’re setting off on a long-awaited family visit, only to find a contagious member of the walking dead has managed to mind the gap between train and platform. Amidst the chaos that ensued, Train to Busan emerged as one of the most fun movies of the year.

train-to-busan

  1. The BFG

I was quite unprepared for how inveigled I would be by Steven Spielberg’s retelling of the Roald Dahl classic from my long-ago childhood. It was thanks, no doubt, to a stunning performance by thespian Mark Rylance who nailed the voice and parlance, and managed to imbue a not-entirely-CGI character with extraordinary humanity. Definitely one for children aged 4 to 104.

  1. The Salesman

Asghar “A Separation” Farhadi has no equal when it comes to situating heavy emotional drama in the most domestic of contexts. In The Salesman, the Iranian writer-director’s latest perfectly-pitched offering saw a couple torn apart in the wake of a mysterious assault. Keeping the audience as much in the dark as his protagonists, he yet again excelled at tightening a noose around the well-observed narrative until a third act in which we couldn’t breathe.

  1. A Bigger Splash

Despite being a well-cast ensemble piece, it was Ralph Fiennes who stole every scene in this rollickingly entertaining glimpse into the life of a retired rocker (Tilda Swinton again), her toyboy lover (the dishy Matthias Schoenarts) and the outlandish ex-partner who threatens to ruin their idyllic Italian holiday.

a-bigger-splash

  1. Carol

There was no way Carol wasn’t going to be impressive, given its casting of the luminous Cate Blanchett in the titular role, and director Todd Haynes’ reliably beautiful rendering of her life as a suffocated society wife in 1950s New York. As Blanchett’s languid gaze fell in love with shop assistant Rooney Mara, we were helpless to fall in love with them both.

  1. Nocturnal Animals

Provocative and beautifully designed thanks to its director’s artistic leanings, Tom Ford’s follow-up to A Single Man proved an adrenaline-pumping portrait of pure evil and materialistic excess. An ice-cold gallery owner (Amy Adams) read her ex-husband’s new novel as we watched the nasty narrative play out on screen, and it provided my most uncomfortably visceral cinematic experience of the year.

  1. Eye in the Sky

Helen Mirren and the late Alan Rickman headlined this fantastically gripping moral thriller which unfolded in real time as allied military commanders sought to make a Red Button-type decision which would impact civilian lives. Utterly caught up in the dilemma, the audience switched sides each time the players received new information, giving us an affecting insight into the quandaries of playing war.

  1. The Nice Guys

Russell Crowe showed his humorous side and Ryan Gosling rolled out the goofy charm in this violent, witty comedy of curse words. What did we love most – the 1970s LA styling? The ridiculous plot? The odd couple’s hilarious and endearing chemistry? Whatever it was – these private eyes had us smiling.

the-nice-guys

  1. The Lady in the Van

Lovers of Dame Maggie Smith (and frankly, I thought I’d seen enough of her) were treated to her career-defining performance as Alan Bennett’s eponymous homeless woman in this fabulously entertaining and somewhat bittersweet rendition of Nicholas Hytner’s National Theatre play. With a host of familiar History Boy cameos and the wonderful words of Bennett to carry it, this was an unexpected joy.

  1. The Girl on the Train

I hadn’t read the bestselling novel, so the film was all the better for not knowing a) that Emily Blunt’s titular girl was supposed to be in London not New York and b) what the heck was going to happen. Yikes. In a similar tone to Gone Girl, the story wove a grieving alcoholic with credibility issues (a stunning performance by the incomparable Blunt) into an unsolved missing persons mystery, and gripped me until its gruesome end.

  1. Whisky Tango Foxtrot

Rounding out my list: For a bit of a laugh, plenty of swearing and a few explosions, I couldn’t go past Whisky Tango Foxtrot for pure entertainment. Tina Fey was hilarious as the unlikely war correspondent thrown into the deep-end of Middle Eastern conflict, who rapidly takes a shine to life in the “Kabubble” of drinking, partying and gunfire. This adaptation of a real-life reporter’s often hilarious anecdotes was at once fascinating, exhilarating, and just what a night at the flicks should be.

 

 

The remaining films of 2016

Public Service Announcement

Due to a large time-lag in this writer posting her reviews contemporaneously, and with a promise to be more efficient in 2017, the remaining film reviews of 2016 (listed below) can be found by searching “Sarah Watt film review” at http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/film

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

The Girl on the Train

Deep Water Horizon

Café Society

The Daughter

Hell or High Water

The Light Between Oceans

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back

Doctor Strange

Arrival

The Accountant

Julieta

Nocturnal Animals

The Founder

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

The Neon Demon

Allied

Sunset Song

Dancer

Elle

Le Ride

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

The Magnificent Seven

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, September 2016

M
133 mins
3 stars

Another day in Hollywood, another pitch for a remake of some classic that probably needn’t have been messed with. (Perhaps they said this in 1960 with regard to Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai, but at least that was translating a Japanese classic into American.) In contrast, this updated Magnificent Seven opts to stick to its original time and place and merely update its casting with some brave/unusual/ uninspiring choices. Magnificent? More like Middling.

The straightforward story, always one of the successful hallmarks of a Western, involves the victimisation of a small American frontier town in the 1870s by an evil industrialist (a terrific Peter Sarsgaard, who has the invidious talent of appearing really sinister even when he’s not). Pillaged and left with the threat of his return, who are the townspeople gonna call? Luckily, wandering bounty hunter Sam Chisholm tips up at the right time, and in turns conscripts a band of mostly merry men to protect and serve.

This time, Yul Brynner’s bald-pated leader is played by Denzel Washington, heralding the first of the curious casting choices – while certainly progressive it’s historically unlikely that uncivilised white folk would have followed a black man – but in any event, Washington’s colour is not mentioned. Similarly, the taciturn “Oriental” counterpart (actually a Korean actor though spoken of as “found in China”) is a specialist in knives and an accepted member of the team, and although the Mexican has a teasing relationship with Chris Pratt’s cheerful buffoon, one can hardly cry “racist!”.

From the superb Training Day which got him attention, to the average The Equalizer and flawed Southpaw, director Antoine Fuqua’s ability to meet my excited expectations is certainly waning. As far as Westerns go, this one is unremarkable – boasting neither Tarantinian dialogue nor the exquisite photography of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. But it’s largely well-executed, maintaining a smart pace and delivering a nicely choreographed battle scene which is less tiresome than most Marvel fights. Perhaps if one manages one’s expectations of magnificence, these seven will still entertain.

David Brent: Life on the Road

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, August 2016

M
96 mins
4 stars

The Office may have ended in 2003, but its creator and star, Ricky Gervais, seems hardly to have disappeared in the intervening decade. There were a couple of underwhelming comedic forays into Hollywood (Ghost Town, The Invention of Lying) and he’s a vehement animal rights activist on Twitter, but notably Gervais reared his head in recent years to offend the Hollywood Foreign Press at the Golden Globes. Say what you like about his frequently line-crossing crassness (OK, I will – Ricky, rein it in a little, mate), ambling on stage with a pint is a nice touch, and I defy anyone to say the man isn’t a brave comic genius.

Of course, to most of us Ricky Gervais is David Brent, the excruciating office manager of a small paper business in Slough who never quite realised how others saw him with rather more disdain than respect. And thanks once again to Gervais’ pitch-perfect blend of edgy humour and devastating pathos, Brent is back: no longer The Man but now working for The Man as a sales rep for sanitary products.

With four hearty laughs in the first two minutes, David Brent: Life on the Road starts with promise and goes on to be an immensely satisfying, sometimes uncomfortable, return to form. Brent, who fronts a soft-rock band in his spare time, takes leave without pay and a group of reluctant session musicians on an expensive tour of his local area. Staying at bland suburban hotels while teeing up under-subscribed gigs, the rockstar experience this middle-aged man has always longed for becomes hard-earned and at times frankly embarrassing.

Brent is also a changed man: he still makes racist jokes but stresses “it’s from the Chinaman’s perspective – for once”, aided and abetted in his gasp-inducing audacity by Love & Friendship’s standout Tom Bennett (taking the dopey Mackenzie Crook role here). Brent even has a black friend (a young rapper whose deadpan is wonderfully natural and believable).

Amidst the film’s quieter, less hysterical moments there is a deeper ache than The Office belied, and his performance frequently proves Gervais as a genuinely terrific actor. Love for David Brent may hurt, but it’s worth it.

Sing Street

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, June 2016

4 stars

Sing Street is an unassumingly charming evocation of 1980s Dublin which charts the romantic tribulations of Connor, an articulate fish out of water at a rough high school, whose efforts to impress a mysterious girl result in his forming a band. Written and directed by John “Once” Carney, it is guaranteed to be another hit among its middle-aged, music-loving audience, but it should also appeal to the youth of today, for whom preoccupations with first love and music are just as central.

One of several period pieces currently on at the flicks, rather than merely Look Like the 80s, Sing Street actually feels like it was written, cast and shot in the era of big hair and stone-washed jeans; that glorious time when bullying happened out in the open of the schoolyard and not snidely over the internet. In his first acting role, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo plays Connor as gutsy and vulnerable, while Lucy Boynton’s portrayal of the girl of his dreams (and music videos) is sympathetic rather than cautionary. There’s a great script, the supporting cast of pale-faced, smoking schoolboys is uniformly excellent, and rising star Jack Reynor (What Richard Did and latterly Macbeth) steals all his scenes as the layabout big brother.

The film’s high Nostalgia Quotient will satisfy an audience hankering for its lost youth (Connor and his gang induce thrills of recognition every time they enter the school gates sporting the latest pop-cultural fad, accompanied by a soundtrack which veers from A-ha to The Cure to Duran Duran), as Sing Street provides a heart-warming, contemporary view of how ground-breaking music videos were back in the day. Even Carney’s original songs are particularly impressive and have you toe-tapping along.

Sing Street deals in a few clichés but mostly of the type you quickly forgive, just because you’re having such a good time. Unconditionally recommended.

 

 

 

 

Finding Dory

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, June 2016

4 stars

Set narratively one year after Nemo got lost and then found, his surrogate sister/mother Dory suffers a similar plot trajectory in this delightful, family-friendly, follow-up.

For those who don’t remember much of 2003, Dory is the cute blue fish with Ellen DeGeneres’ voice, who “suffers from short-term memory loss”, as her patiently caring parents have taught her to explain to each stranger she meets. Which, given she can’t retain a thought for more than six seconds, means she says it a lot.

The ridiculously simple premise is just as beguiling as its predecessor, whereby Dory (superbly embodied by DeGeneres such that the fish’s facial expressions perfectly reflect the adorable lilt of her pathologically apologetic dialogue) goes on a quest to find her own family, and meets a plethora of well-rendered, aquatic characters on the way. What’s not to love about Hank, the cynical old septopus (Ed O’Neill) and a dopey beluga whale named Bailey, voiced by Modern Family’s Ty Burrell? I’m not even tired of hearing Idris Elba’s wry English tones in yet another children’s movie (after Zootopia and The Jungle Book).

Finding Dory doesn’t deliver the hearty laughs as much as Zootopia did, and it mostly eschews the now-customary adult level of meaning written into children’s movies, in order to concentrate on wowing us with some beautifully cinematic photography and neatly clever flashbacks.

But it’s nonetheless an entertaining, often moving, story with a moral. Employing junior assistants for this particular reviewing mission, I’m grateful for the critical considerations of Miss Eight, who explained that the film’s message is “To just keep going, no matter what”, and Miss Five-and-a-quarter whose reply to “What do you think the film wanted us to know?” was the commercially astute: “It wants you to watch it heaps of times”.

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