I’d been to one of Crouch End Picturehouse’s Big Scream shows before, with my wife and then-three-month-old daughter Zara. But today, flying solo with a now 11-month-old Zara for Big Scream’s presentation of Pixar and Disney’s Finding Dory, was a whole new kettle of animated fish.
It’s a short bus ride to the picturehouse and Zara loves the view from upstairs. The bus is pretty empty and before I know it I’m looking enviably at the cinema’s tasty looking selection of booze and craft beer. Just a flat white for me, thanks. I’m on duty.
The thing that bums me out about these kind of adventures is the different world’s Zara and I live in. To her, everyone’s a potential friend and she tries her hardest to make eye contact and make people smile. To me, a brown-skinned dad in a world of clicky, understandably suspicious moms, my parallel universe can be pretty alienating at times.
A couple walks by carrying their tiny newborn baby in a car seat, grandmother in tow. Grandmother looks at me with a patronizing, skeptical sideways glance. I smile at Zara and carry on regardless.
The moviehouse is pretty empty but we got a seat near the front. We set up, and encouragingly, Zara sits on my lap, captivated by the blaring screen. Maybe this could be easier than I thought. Last time she was oblivious to what was going on, other than the noise. This time she’s totally into it. Then the trailers and adverts roll on for what feels like forever.
It’s disgusting, really. The whole show is for parents, carers and babies. But the ads and trailers are just as relentless as always. And sure enough, Zara’s attention starts to wane and she gets fidgety. Then, finally, it’s Finding Dory time. No wait, there’s just enough time to squeeze in a last-minute Volkswagen ad, between the Finding Dory certificate screen and the actual movie. Then there’s the token Pixar pre-movie short. Come on already.
Luckily, Zara’s sucked straight into Disney’s colourful underwater world. Both of us haven’t seen the original film, but I’m guessing it’s not as complex as Game of Thrones. I’m sure we’ll pick it up.
Voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, it soon becomes clear that Dory, a blue tang fish, suffers from short-term memory loss – which had a fin in her being separated from her parents when she was a baby. Suddenly, Dory has a flashback, remembers she had parents and decides to head out on a quest to find them at the Jewel of Morro Bay – the only detail she can remember for now.
Of course, Dory is joined by Nemo and his dad Marlon – imagine the missed merchandising opportunities if she wasn’t. But before they leave, there’s an odd musical interlude about migration, featuring a bunch of rays singing a jolly song about “going home.” In today’s climate, it’s hard not to see the number as a not-so-subtle message on immigration, and immigrants returning to “where they came from.” Odd…
Anyway, as you’d expect, the story’s filled with wacky characters, sentimental moments and fishy jokes like “holy carp.” And eventually, Dory’s short-term memory loss turns out to be her biggest strength; “what would Dory do?”
After an animated film, it’s always fun to see if I guessed any of the voice actors right. Ellen was easy. And I also managed to spot Eugene Levy as Dory’s dad Charlie and Albert Brooks as Marlon. Quite a few I didn’t pick up on, though; Ed O’Neill as Hank the cranky-yet-lovable red octopus – a rookie mistake, as that describes just about every role he’s ever played. Idris Elba as Fluke the sea lion. Diane Keaton as Dory’s mother Jenny. And Ty Burell as Bailey the beluga whale.
One I really wish I’d known beforehand was Always Sunny In Philadelphia’s Kaitlin Olson as Destiny the near-sighted whale shark. Didn’t get that one either. Interestingly, Nemo’s voiced by newcomer Hayden Rolence, who didn’t play the world’s most famous clownfish in the original film. But a much-deeper-voiced Gould does make a cameo appearance as Carl the truck driver.
After the film there’s a long queue of moms and prams vying for the baby change room. I decide to head up the stairs and find two more bathrooms with change facilities. Impressively, one of them’s in the men’s toilet. I manage to distract a now cranky Zara with my bank card holder and get her in a fresh nappy for the trip home. For the 70% of the movie she was watching and in a good mood, it was awesome. She just sat on my lap, leaned back on my chest and watched. And all in all, a great morning out.