Finding Dory (Disney, 2016)
Dory is a Royal Blue Tang (that’s a fish, not a breakfast drink) suffering with short-term memory loss (like most fish. Proof: fish hooks). A year before, in Finding Nemo, Dory helped a clown fish named Marlin find his young son Nemo. In this new movie, everyone is finding Dory.
Let me be the first to say I thoroughly enjoyed this movie made for children and adults which proves again that Disney will one day be the only movie company in existence. Gone are the days of Duck Tales and cheap production values that plagued the company in the ‘80s. With the acquisition of Pixar and Marvel, Disney has come back to their glory days. You will not find any finer animation studio anywhere.
That being said, I’m going to pick Dory apart, because no movie is perfect. I mean, a fish with short-term memory loss? C’mon.
It’s just that this whole setup is used as a crutch for the plot. We flashback to Dory as a baby fish, with her mother and father trying to watch over her so she won’t wander off. Fast forward to Finding Nemo, where she co-stars. Then, somehow, the older Dory suddenly remembers that somewhere she has a family. What triggers this? Sorry, I don’t remember.
The rest of the movie is Dory remembering just enough, here and there, to find her way back to her childhood home across the ocean. Loyal to the sequel, Marlin and Nemo follow along. Thank goodness for long-distance ocean travel by catching rides on the backs of sea turtles.
Our friends find themselves at a Rescue Marine Aquarium in California, where Dory was born. In this well-used public establishment, Dory gets separated from Marlin and Nemo. Soon she befriends a rogue octopus named Hank, who helps her uncover the fish tank of her origin.
Along the way she discovers childhood friends she had forgotten, and all sorts of interesting characters including sharks, whales, sea lions, and a mentally challenged loon named Becky. OK, point of criticism: The writers use Becky’s disability for humor, something that just didn’t sit right with me. Another animal that isn’t all there is Gerald the sea lion, whose so-called friends constantly bully him just because they’re bored.
Excuse me, but isn’t this a movie about being understanding to those who have imperfections? Something about this had an air of hypocrisy about it, as if we’re supposed to treat those who are different with outward respect, unless they go beyond a certain point, where it becomes okay, even funny, to laugh at them. Is this a social skill we want to teach our young children? Because Disney is a very effective teacher of our youth, make no mistake.
Of course, “effective” doesn’t nearly do justice to the beautiful, interesting plot and the lovability of the characters. Dory’s baby voice will make you choke up. Hank the octopus is a magical animal who can hide anywhere. And you’ll surely enjoy learning about echolocation.
Finding Dory is first-rate entertainment. There’s even a post-credits scene after the 10 minutes of listings for the animators and other production folks. This is a beautiful movie and will engage everyone who sees it. But please explain to your three-year-olds not to model their behavior off of the sea lions. I’m sure they’ll understand. Enjoy!
P.S., I have to mention the cartoon short, Piper, about a tiny sandpiper that learns to eat clams. It’s worth the price of the whole movie.