Movie Review: Finding Dory

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Forgetful fish Dory crosses the ocean to find her parents.

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Andrew Stanton & Angus MacLane, 2016

A year after travelling across the ocean to find her friend’s missing son, Dory (Ellen Degeneres) starts to have flashbacks to her childhood with her parents. She becomes determined to find them, which means a trip from the Great Barrier Reef across the sea to Los Angeles. The previously missing Nemo (Hayden Rolence) and his protective father Marlin (Albert Brooks) accompany her on her trip, as much to look after the forgetful fish as to go on adventure with her. They make it to an aquarium in LA, but Marlin’s insensitivity causes a rift between the friends. Exploring the aquarium to find her parents, Dory must find a way to gain some independence despite her “short term remembery loss”. She befriends an octopus named Hank (Ed O’Neill), while Nemo and Marlin try to reconnect with their friend.

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Finding Nemo is easily one of Pixar’s best movies. It was adventurous and warm and looked beautiful – and its standout character, Dory, more than deserves a movie of her own. This sequel surpasses the original in gorgeousness – I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they create some screensavers like they did for the first one, because there are some scenes that are breathtakingly beautiful. I can’t help but feel like Pixar has really pulled back on its risk-taking, though. Finding Dory, from its opening moment to its final scene, feels much too safe. There’s a distinct lack of threat in Dory’s little adventure. It’s such a gentle ride, an episodic journey with few real surprises along the way. It lacks the quotability of the first film as well, the script funny but not quite as sharp as the original. The new characters are fine, if not quite as memorable as the ones from Finding Nemo – with the exception of the smart, neurotic “septopus” Hank, who is easily the MVP from the supporting characters in this film. They get to do so many fun things with him that I’m surprised they could bring themselves to split their focus between the Dory storyline and the less interesting rehashy Marlin/Nemo storyline. The film feels like a fairly sparse story concept that was padded and pushed to silly extremes.

Having said all that, this film is definitely a spiritual sequel to Finding Nemo. It takes the first film’s themes of disability and independence and expands upon them. By shifting the focus to Dory rather than Marlin, it gives us a disabled hero to identify with. There’s quite a few flashbacks to the adorable tiny baby Dory, who caused many audience members to go completely lose composure from sheer cuteness. We watch her struggle with her disability throughout the film. The film’s most emotional scene shows Dory, alone and confused, having experienced something traumatic but without the memory of what it was that caused her emotional turmoil. It’s a powerful scene, even if it is undermined not long after. However, instead of focusing on what she can’t do, the film values her different approach to life and gives her a hero’s journey towards independence. Ultimately, that’s the message you hope kids take away from this movie, when they buy their Dory and Hank toys and colouring books.

Finding Dory on IMDb

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