Starring: Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Ed O’Neill
Director: Andrew Stanton, Angus MacLane
Screenplay: Andrew Stanton
Animation/Adventure/Comedy, Rated: PG
Running Time: 97 minutes
Release Date: June 17, 2016
Well it looks like we’re back in the ocean looking for another disabled fish.
Finding Dory has definitely whet my appetite. But not for seafood. Let’s recap.
We meet Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), a blue tang fish who lacks short termed memory. It’s been a year since she helped find Nemo and we flash forward to the present. Dory keeps introducing herself to other fish as if they had met for the first time. Then she has a flashback where she remembers her parents trying to teach her (as a young fish) how to find her way home. They are very understanding and patient fish and are teaching Dory coping mechanisms for her memory problems.
Dory is captured by the Marine Life Institute, where she is tagged and thrown into the quarantine section. There she meets a grumpy octopus named Hank (Ed O’Neill), who wants Dory’s tag so that he can be sent to a permanent aquarium. To get the tag, he agrees to help Dory find her parents. Soon she meets an old childhood friend a shark named Destiny (Kaitlin Olson) and a whale named Bailey (Ty Burrell), who both play a role in helping Dory.
It’s been a long time since I saw the prequel Finding Nemo. I think both of these films feature young fish with a disability. And the thrust of the film is how to deal with the challenges life throws at you regardless of your abilities. This is a wonderful message for young children who always feel powerless in a world of adult giants.
Dory is just as adorable as her voice actor – America’s sweetheart Ellen Degeneres. The only problem I had with the film and Dory is that she suffers from selective memory. She appears to remember things just in time for the plot points.
I’m torn in my evaluation because on the one hand this is a children’s film. And Pixar delivers. But there are leaps and gaps in logic (Dory happens to go down the same drain as her parents did two years ago. And they’re still in the same location waiting for Dory to come home. Lucky). This film will entertain children for years to come. But Pixar has a reputation for appealing to both the child and adult markets, and I think they missed the mark for adults.
I was thinking the same thing, Greg. This is a kids movie, pure and simple. I found myself in the unfamiliar position of being bored — an unheard of place for me to be during a Pixar film. All these characters are quite lovable and appealing, but there isn’t much depth or substance in the characters or in the situations they encounter (with one notable exception which I’ll get to shortly). Much is made of all the different places, rooms, and bodies of water that the fish find themselves in, and I suppose there is some cleverness in how they are transported to those places. But again, these kinds of action sequences appeal to children.
So let’s talk about the one exceptional feature of Finding Dory that was very clever and sophisticated. It is her short-term memory problem that you mention, Greg. Typically the hero is missing an important quality and the hero’s journey forces the hero to develop this quality. In Dory’s case, her memory problem cannot be fixed, and so this movie teaches us that even when we face permanent deficits, we can draw on our other strengths to compensate for these deficits. Dory spends her hero’s journey discovering hidden strengths that others do not possess — strengths which more than make up for her memory issues. This is a nice twist on the conventional hero’s journey and I really appreciated it.
Finding Dory is a nice sequel to Finding Nemo. We see similar themes in how to deal with disabilities. The word ‘nice’ comes to mind quite frequently. It’s a nice little story. Dory is a nice character. The parents were nice and patient. And I had a nice time. But there wasn’t a lot of the drama that made Finding Nemo compelling to all ages. Dory merely moves from place to place – each place adding a piece to the puzzle that is her memory. I can only muster 3 out of 5 Reels for Finding Dory.
Dory as the hero does really well here. As you point out, Scott, she has a missing inner quality of a missing memory. But she also has the missing inner quality of not belonging. She suddenly realizes that she’s missed her parents and needs to find them. So her quest to find her parents propels the story forward and her ultimate reunion with them resolves her inner hurt. I liked Dory and I give her 4 out of 5 Heroes.
Dory as several mentors in this film. Her parents act as her early mentors – teaching her how to survive despite her memory problems by drawing on her other gifts. The “septapus” xxx is her guide through the special world of the Marine Habitat. And Dory herself acts as a “by example” mentor to Nemo’s dad xxx. He learns to act in the moment and do “what Dory would do” when the need arises. I give them 3 out of 5 Mentors.
I think you’ve summed up Finding Dory quite nicely, Greg. Children under the age of 14 should enjoy this movie, and adults will either enjoy it or at least find it palatable. The characters are all adorable and movie captures quite well the time-honored theme of finding home. Finding Dory will never been known as one of Pixar’s finest offerings but it’s still worthy entertainment. I also award it 3 Reels out of 5.
Delivering a strong hero’s journey is Pixar’s strength, and this film is no exception. All the classic elements of the hero’s quest are here in full form, beginning with the departure from home, the encounter with allies to help with the mission, the presence of ominous oppositional forces, and the hero’s meaningful transformation as a result of the journey. I agree that this hero deserves a rating of 4 Heroes out of 5.
There are plenty of mentors, as you point out, Greg. Dory’s strength is remaining open to learning from them all. She also teaches these mentors a thing or two about showing determination and solving problems. I think I’ll bump up the mentor rating a notch from yours and give these mentors a rating of 4 out of 5.