Note: very minor spoilers here but spoilers nonetheless.
I saw Finding Dory the weekend it came out and am now just getting to the review. Sorry. Life has gotten in the way. Oh please. It’s not like you even comment on this blog. Back off.
Wait, come back. Please don’t go. I didn’t mean it. You’re legit like the only person that reads this blog.
There you go. Have a seat. OK if I continue?
But, I still felt it necessary to get this review out because, well, I was wrong. Ever since I started seeing trailers for Finding Dory, I found myself feeling less and less enthused with each new spot. I don’t know what it was. It was probably a mix of things. Finding Nemo is a favorite of mine for one thing. So I am a little protective of it. And while Pixar has proven it can release more-than-worthy story expansions in at least the Toy Story universe, it has also released some stinker sequels (ahem, Cars 2. Cough Monsters University.) And looking at their future slate of films, they seem more sequel-crazy than whoever made all those Police Academy movies. And yes, I do look forward to seeing more of Buzz and Woody and the Incredibles but I am already nostalgic for those years of original release after original release. I mentioned this a little when I wrote my review for Inside Out last year, but the direction Pixar was heading in had me a little worried.
Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment was pretty awesome though.
Erm. But probably most of all, I just didn’t get what Dory was going to be. I never met Dory’s parents. Had really no desire to. To me, Dory’s salvation was Marlin and Nemo. She had found a family. Why did we need to go looking for more? I was all – meh.
Again, totally wrong. Well, not totally. Dory does have a family in Marlin and Nemo but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t know where she came from, right? While Nemo was about a father’s frantic search for his son out in the world, this was about a soul finding its way home. And by “home” I mean better understanding one’s place in the world by first understanding where one came from. And through this, yes (spoiler alert) Dory does find her parents but she also finds that “family” means so much more than blood. A family is built not only of genetics but of love. And in that definition, anyone we hold dear and are held dear by can be family.
So yeah, did I mention I cried like this entire movie? Cuz. I mean. I didn’t. Pffft. I am ALL MAN baby.
JK, cried like a little girl.
And just like Nemo, Finding Dory is driven largely by a combination of excellent characters and superb storytelling. And of course it’s beautiful as crud. I mean, it’s Pixar. We touched on the story a little bit, but let’s talk about the characters for a sec. Marlin and Nemo both continue to be an extremely likable pair that together are a charming mix of Nemo’s wide-eyed optimism and Marlin’s firmly grounded sweeticysm (yeah, I just made that word up. Combination of sweetness and cynicism. All rights reserved.) And there are some new characters that I absolutely love. Ty Burrell as Bailey and Kaitlin Olson as Destiny the near-sighted whale shark seem kindred spirits to Dory, each dealing with conditions of their own that impair their abilities.
But as far as new characters go, Ed O’Neill as Hank the grumpy old septopus prone to conspiracy theories was definitely my favorite. I mean, everyone loves the grumpy-exterior-with-a-heart-of-gold character, don’t they? And in a movie like this, this type of character not only helps to further the story on his own but he also served well to enhance the character of Dory. Just as with Marlin in the first film, Hank is made whole because of his time with Dory (I’ll get to her in a sec.)
And of course Becky..
And I really love Dory’s parents (voiced by Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton). Watching how they nurtured Dory and figured out ways to help her overcome her short-term memory loss is an example of how parenting should be, no? As loving parents, they never got annoyed or angry when Dory would forget. They understood, moved on, and helped her understand that this difference was simply part of her. As we all have to work with what God gave us, so did Dory. And I also enjoyed how more broadly their strategy to find Dory contrasted with Marlin’s to find Nemo in the first film. While Marlin tenaciously searched for Nemo as protector, Dory’s parents had faith. They had faith they had prepared her for the world and she would find her way back.
Trust and faith in our children to make the right decisions and be safe is not easy to come by. And while most of us would probably search high and low for a lost child as Marlin did, remember that his overbearing nature is what drove Nemo away in the first place. Protecting our children also means equipping them with the tools to survive and letting them figure things out on their own. Children need protection but they also need the confidence to live in this world.
But of course, it’s Dory that makes this thing. Whether we are talking baby Dory (OMG WITH THE KEWT)…
…or grown Dory, I just love her. There I said it. I mean, of course she’s funny. And Ellen DeGeneres is legit perfect as Dory. But she is so much more than that. In Finding Nemo, we got to see her as the unexpected hero. She is THE reason that Marlin found Nemo. In this movie, her spirit, heroism and gifts are celebrated. Dory’s “condition” leads her to be more observant of the present and, therefore, use her surroundings to their utmost advantage. Her disability is not something she simply deals with. It is one of the things that makes her special and unique. When Marlin and Nemo are in a tight spot, they start thinking along the lines of What Would Dory Do and this leads them to look around and take in what is around them. And thinking like Dory – living in the present and pushing forward – helps them to succeed.
It’s an interesting – and maybe ironically, overlooked – thing to take from this movie. To look around. To come out of your head for just a second to understand that sometimes, just being and ingesting the world around you is enough. Sure, we need memories and experiences to learn and grow, but the present is a gift and if we don’t stop and look around a little bit, it’ll be gone before you know it.
Thanks again, Pixar. I am very glad to have been proven wrong this time around. 6 Gary Colemans dressed as Mr. T!!