Review: In FINDING DORY, Family Reigns Supreme
Floating gently across the big screen, filled with kindness and generosity and nothing at all that could be construed as threatening for anyone anywhere, the latest endeavor from Pixar is a chill pill for adults.
Arriving 13 years after Finding Nemo, the sequel searches for a new fish without much compelling reason to do so. Finding Dory is, first and foremost, a well-deserved if sentimental tribute to parents who love their children, including any who suffer from limitations of any type. It also serves to reassure young ones that they deserve love and affection from their parents, even if they fear that they are not "normal."
Beyond those worthwhile messages, however, Finding Dory struggles to find a reason to exist. To be sure, the film is beautifully animated and easy to watch and, though the messages are insistently repeated, it's difficult to complain about such positive reinforcement for children.
As an adult, however, it's impossible not to yearn for the greater ambition of the original. In those days, before Pixar was purchased by Disney, the company was willing to risk killing off a mother before the story really got started. That fueled the often desperate search by Marlin (Albert Brooks), who saw his son Nemo snatched out of the sea in front of his eyes. The film followed Marlin on an exhausting, danger-filled journey across the Pacific Ocean, accompanied by the forgetful Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), and simultaneously followed Nemo in his new circumstances, hoping that his father finds him before he is taken away by a potentially dangerous child.
Finding Dory begins with Dory's origin story, to a point, suggesting that Dory was 'born that way,' though I couldn't help wondering if her amnesia was caused when she watched Memento as an infant. Happily for Dory, her parents Charlie (Eugene Levy) and Jenny (Diane Keaton) are extremely patient as they raise her, being sure to teach her things that will pay off later in the movie.
Dory's origin story is, in effect, a short prequel to Finding Nemo. Jumping over the events in that movie, Dory remains good friends with Marlin and Nemo but soon enough the three are separated and the titular search commences.
As a supporting character in the original, Dory served as a traditional sidekick, providing comic relief to the often despairing Marlin and helping (or hindering) as the plot demanded. Her short-term memory loss was played for laughs.
Moving Dory to center stage reminds the audience that we shouldn't laugh at people with disabilities. It's alright if the disabled individual makes light of their challenge, but others should refrain from initiating such jokes. Dory is a plucky and positive fish, so it's easy to be polite in her on-screen presence, but the limitations of her character also limit the story possibilities.
Thus, the sequel follows the pattern set by the original. Marlin and Nemo search for Dory, while Dory searches for a way out of her new circumstances. The theme is family; what does it mean to have a family? What do family members owe to one another? Can orphans, literal or otherwise, experience the love, joy and support of family ever again? And so forth and so on. It never gets too dark, and any time clouds of concern appear in the distance, comic situations burst forth to make sure the mood stays light and lively. But this is, overall, a less substantial experience than the first film.
Andrew Stanton, who wrote and directed Finding Nemo, once again handles writing and directing duties. Admittedly, I've only seen the original once, but this film feels like it has far more manufactured situations, and that's especially true as it tries to race for the finish line. The voice cast is filled with familiar names, with Hank (Ed O'Neill), an octopus with only seven arms, floating to the top among the supporting roles.
Pixar being Pixar, family reigns supreme in Finding Dory, and so the possibility that Dory might be happy outside of a family unit is never seriously entertained. Pixar's anti-singlehood stance aside, the sequel is cheerful entertainment with all the original's edges rounded off.
The film will open theatrically in many territories around the world on Thursday, June 16 and Friday, June 17. It will open in other territories later in June, July, August and September.
- Andrew Stanton
- Angus MacLane
- Andrew Stanton (original story by)
- Andrew Stanton (screenplay)
- Victoria Strouse (screenplay)
- Bob Peterson (additional screenplay material by)
- Angus MacLane (additional story material by)
- Ellen DeGeneres
- Albert Brooks
- Ed O'Neill
- Kaitlin Olson