I had a chance to see Pixar’s latest film Finding Dory on Monday.
The moment the screen faded from the previews and young Dory’s voice broke through the quiet darkness, it felt right. As cheesy as this may sound, I could instantly tell that we were going to reconnect with this beloved character without missing a beat, even though 13 years had passed since we first met.
Finding Dory takes place a year after the epic adventure of Finding Nemo. Or, rather, most of the film takes place in this time. We do get treated to scenes from Dory’s childhood and adolescence which are not only adorable, but serve to set up some important lessons later in the movie. Moments into the film, though, she runs into Marlin and Nemo in a very familiar scene. From here we continue forward, beyond the events of the first movie.
Dory finds herself one day with memories that seemingly pop up out of nowhere. She realizes she has a family, that she had to come from somewhere. As she makes a decision to set off in search of her parents, she begins to remember a little bit more here and there, though the significance of most of the memories isn’t revealed right from the start.
We follow Dory, Marlin, and Nemo on another adventure across the sea, where she ends up at the Marine Life Institute. She is looking for her parents, but finds more friends and family along the way – as she simultaneously finds out more about herself.
The movie is charming and funny. Dory (and Marlin, Nemo, and other familiar friends) are excellent continuations of the characters we know. The new characters – especially a septopus named Hank, a Whale Shark named Destiny (who thinks she’s a whale), Bailey, a Beluga Whale that believes he has a head injury, and a trio of entertaining sea lions – are endearing and easily rewatchable. Becky, a loon (in more than one sense of the word!), has no lines but steals every scene in which she appears.
Just as Finding Nemo brought us a powerful tale about a father and son, and a lesson about friendship and family, Finding Dory has more to offer than gag bits and an adventure tale. Much like Marlin learns important parenting lessons in the first film – lessons on letting go, on loosening the grip we have on our kids, and on becoming brave for someone else – viewers of Finding Dory won’t be able to avoid equally poingnant and potentially even more powerful messages throughout this film. In no particular order —
- It’s easy to let our fears define and limit us if we aren’t careful… Despite having had his friendship and support for over a year, just one negative comment from Marlin, and Dory was instantly able to believe again that her memory issues made her a nuisance and less than worthy of companionship. At one point, she even reprimands herself: “Don’t be such a Dory, Dory.” It’s heartbreaking, but not all that unfamiliar for many of us.
- … but they don’t have to. As Dory was alone and scared, trying to be anything but herself, others were learning that “being Dory” is exactly how she is able to accomplish so much. Eventually, it becomes clear that what is viewed as an impediment can actually be used to ones benefit. Asking, “What would Dory do?” gets people out of a jam far more often in the film than, “Don’t be such a Dory!” 🙂
- There is always another way. On more than one occasion, things seem bleak for any number of our friends. In those times, Dory remembers a childhood lesson that she passes along to others: there is always another way. While she can be anxious and lose focus at times, she teaches us how far resilience, persistence, and optimism can get us when we feel backed against a corner. It’s not all that unlike her motto we’ve already come to love, “Just keep swimming!”
- “That’s just life. The best things happen out in the world – not safe inside a glass tank.” Ok, so that one will need nailed down just a bit more when it’s out on BluRay. I’ve seen the movie twice now though, and the quote, made by Dory to Hank as he fears returning to the ocean, is pretty close. Even if the words aren’t exactly right, Dory is; we can stay in our comfort zone, or we can leave the safety of the tank and go out in the world, where the best things are possible.
- You don’t have to apologize for who you are. From the beginning of the film, we see Dory discovering her “remembery loss” and quickly counting it as a bother. She apologizes almost every time she introduces herself, even as a child, and absolutely every time she finds out she’s “forgotten again”. It was very easy for her to reduce herself to nothing more than a fish with a problem, but as Dory discovers she is special and capable, we find she is able to embrace her unique qualities and stop apologizing for them.
- There are always people who are rooting for you. While Dory often felt alone and abandoned, little did she know that Marlin and Nemo were searching for her – and that they weren’t the only ones who wanted to find her. Ultimately, she found people (well, fish, but just go with me…) that truly believed that her differences didn’t have to be a hindrance. She found friends that knew she may have hurdles to overcome, but by just being Dory, she could do so many special things. Sometimes, in some of the most powerful scenes in the movie, characters were relentless in making sure she knew just that.
Overall, the characters and story were great. The voice cast was so vast, including extras and cameos that may not have even been credited, and they were spectacular. There are lots of laugh-out-loud moments. I’ll admit, a few times I was taken out of the movie enough to find a complaint or two. I don’t want to spoil any of the fun, but suffice it to say some of the humor felt a little ridiculous and a bit trite. Kids will love it though, and my friend Anthony made an excellent point: Dory can’t be used as simply comic relief in this film, because it’s her (incredibly important) story. Marlin is freed up to be a little funnier than he was in Finding Nemo, but there probably was a bit more room to rely on things such as slapstick and over-the-top humor. Ultimately though, the story and the heart of the movie overcomes any complaints I may have found.
- Make sure you get to the theater early enough to see the animated short, “Piper”, before the film. The precious little bird is impossibly charming, but beyond that, the animation of the sand, ocean, and feathers is stunning. In many instances you will forget you aren’t watching a high-definition nature video. The curiosity and adventurous spirit of the title character might remind you of a child you know, too. “Piper” is exceptionally sweet and you won’t want to miss it!
- I am not one to tout 3D very often. Sure, it’s really cool sometimes, but not always necessarily worth the additional cost if you have a large family. In other cases, I find it downright distracting. I’ve seen Finding Dory now both with and without 3D, and in this case I’m recommending you consider the premium ticket if it makes sense for your family. The depth and beauty of the ocean scenes is spectacular, and the 3D is absolutely an added benefit. It does make an intense scene or two, however, more intense.
- Continuing on that note, if you’re taking young kids there are a few things of which to be mindful. Certainly it’s family-friendly and contains absolutely nothing inappropriate. That said, there is an unsettling scene about 15 minutes in, during which Nemo is in peril. It can be compared to the startling angler fish scene from Finding Nemo, in a much more drawn out and in-your-face manner – especially in 3D. Finally, there is a scene just over an hour in that is very emotionally intense, and the dizzying cinematography makes the characters’ fear even more palpable. (I will add that seeing it today without 3D, this second instance was definitely not as bothersome. Truly, I would just keep it in mind. I wouldn’t avoid 3D because of it, and I wouldn’t completely ignore the possibility of it bothering viewers just because your showing is not in 3D.)
- As with Riley in Inside Out, Dory’s insecurity and struggles are the only “villain” in Finding Dory. That is helpful if your kid, like my youngest, is going through an anti-bad guy phase!
- Stick around for the end, for an endearing post-credits scene. Don’t worry, Sia’s cover of “Unforgettable” (and a game of hide-and-seek with Hank!) will keep you entertained while you wait.
Did you see the movie? What did you think?
And how loud did you laugh at the whole Sigourney Weaver bit?! It’s a great movie overall, and we’re looking forward to seeing it again and again!
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