Disney/Pixar’s Finding Dory released in theaters over the weekend (June 17), which is the follow up to Finding Nemo. Normally, a thirteen year time span between movies would leave much to be desired– especially for a film that really didn’t need a sequel; and yet, Finding Dory still seems relevant, fresh and exciting.
Finding Dory takes place a year after the events of Finding Nemo. All of our characters are are happily living their lives in the Great Coral Reef, especially Dory, who finds herself rooted in a permanent home and surrounded by caring friends. It’s fairly touching, as from what we could gather from the first film, Dory’s never really had any real support during her previous journey. As you might recall, Dory’s most notable attribute is her short-term memory loss, which led to some comedic points in Finding Nemo as information came and went almost instantaneously. In retrospect, it’s actually heartbreaking to think about, as you have to wonder how Dory even managed to wind up where she did. Well, Finding Dory sets out to answer that question– as a plot device– err, talk about the undertow, triggers a flashback of Dory’s parents. And if you’ve seen any of the trailers, then you know that the three set off to find Dory’s parents.
While Finding Nemo was about Marlin’s journey to find his son, and ultimately sets the stage for his character growth, Finding Dory takes an alternative approach. The journey itself is actually seemingly short, as the characters all arrive at their destination within one scene– and that’s because the journey focuses on how Dory deals with her mental disability. (Yeah, the movie about fish is about to get real). While it served as a cute joke in the first film (and still does at times here), it can be extremely heartbreaking to watch Dory struggle with her inability to remember even the most simplistic information. What’s great about Dory though is her unrelenting optimism and unorthodox way of looking at situations. While we see other characters, like Marlin, find themselves in bad situations too, it’s only when they “think like Dory” that they overcome their obstacles. Because while Dory might have short-term memory loss, it doesn’t define who she is as a person (fish).
What could have easily been a cheap cash-in for nostalgia, produced a charming and heartwarming story that was unexpected. Did we need Finding Dory? No, not really, but I’m glad it exists. It’s just as well-made as the original film and can easily stand on its own.
**Side note PSA: If you enjoy Nemo and Dory, then respect the damn ocean and wildlife. I started working in a pet store in 2005 and at least once a week (for 8 years) I was asked whether we carried “Nemo fish.” We didn’t. But the sheer vigor of some parents to shut their kids up led to an increase in clown fish sales– and very likely, clown fish death since people seem to think maintaining a small ecosystem is easy and (literally) effortless. It isn’t. And if you think adding a blue tang to your newly purchased salt water tank is a good idea, remember that the fish you purchase was more than likely snatched from its home in the wild. If you’re legitimately serious about dumping the money into a salt water tank, then do your research and make sure you purchase captive bred fish– otherwise you’re contributing to a conservation problem. And that’s not cool.