Emotional Journeys: Our Review of ‘Finding Dory’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - June 17, 2016
Emotional Journeys: Our Review of ‘Finding Dory’

The triumph of an animated family film is usually in its ability to appeal to both kids and adults. Making jokes that cater to the pair of groups equally, as well as references or gags that are reach each individually, are one key part in a recipe for success often enjoyed by Disney, among others.

With Finding Dory, Pixar’s sequel to the lauded and beloved Finding Nemo, coming some 13 years after the fact, there is a new dual appeal to both adults and children: anxiety.

Indeed this is family friendly fair, for about the first 15 minutes and then again ahead of its climax, will not only tug at heart strings, it will unsettle your stomach and likely wet your eyes. That’s because Dory, the Blue Tang memory-challenged comic relief of the first film now takes center stage, and her ailment puts her often alone in the deep blue sea, armed only with the knowledge that she forgets things and her hopeful spirit.

While most of the film takes place a year after the first, the heartbreaking open introduces us to Dory’s parents (voiced by Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton), imparting some wisdom on the precocious fledging. Something happens – we don’t know what at first – and there is Dory adrift, growing up over the years wandering the seas looking for her family, maybe knowing what they look like and who they are, but maybe not.

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When her parents explain to her how her memory loss works, she asked them they will ever forget her. And if she will ever forget them. It’s tragic.

We revisit briefly the meeting of Dory and Marlin (Albert Brooks), in search of his son Nemo, before jumping to our current timeline in Dory, with our new protagonist (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres), determined to reunite with her parents.

The beautifully-realized and funny lark takes her to the Marine Life Institute where she meets various other sea critters with their own deficiencies. Destiny (Kaitlin Olson) is a sweet near-sighted blue whale, Bailey (Ty Burrell) is a self-conscious Beluga, and Hank (Ed O’Neill), a curmudgeon who reluctantly helps Dory in her quest, is an anti-social Octopus with seven legs – so not an Octopus exactly.

It’s can’t surpass the greatness of the original, but Dory’s message and tone are refreshing and important. Aside from being a visual feast and buoyed by quite a few comedic sidekicks – Marlin and Nemo play large roles, but they supplement Dory – the film succeeds at embracing positivity, engaging differences, and stressing the equal importance of self-determination and interdependence.

finding-dory-xlargeThe sweet, big-eyed Dory, an indefatigable blue fish navigating unknown waters and unfamiliar territory, can make the audience pause and even quiver at the hardship she faces. Her disability offers laughs but also sympathy, and in that holds a strong message for all those watching.

Not that Dory is some tragic, somber tale. The introduction of Hank is a revelation, a slithery creature that is remarkable to watch move on screen, also because he is not shy to use his camouflage capabilities. His cold heart (well, hearts) is warmed by Dory, and though her sidekick, he does gets turn in the driver’s seat in a matter of speaking. The title is an easy continuation of the title of the first film, but there is more meaning in it if you care to look. More than one character in the film realizes in order to win the day, we must think like Dory. And it’s surely not about the destination, it’s about the journey, and one well worth the wait.

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