Last time, it was the orange clownfish Nemo who had to be found. This time around it is Dory, the blue tang with a ‘short-term-remembery-loss’ who gets lost.
A popular topic that has been bobbing about the internet these days: Will the summer of Hollywood’s sequel and prequel box-office discontent bounce back with the arrival of “Finding Dory,” Pixar and Disney’s double-dip back flip into the same animated pool of undersea beings that propelled 2003’s wondrously endearing “Finding Nemo”.
Wisely, the film takes full advantage of what was “Finding Nemo’s” greatest asset besides its lushly multi-hued underwater inhabitants and plant life: Ellen DeGeneres’ buoyant spirit and child-like glee as she vocally gave life to Dory, the forgetful yet fearless blue tang whose struggles with short-term memory loss proved to be a crucial plus whenever the going got tough as stressed-out daddy clownfish Marlin searched for headstrong young son Nemo. After all, nothing is more freeing than barely being able to summon your past, which is why the impulsive Dory is so good at acting in the moment.
The story is not as fresh of a catch as the original, even if the script is again by Andrew Stanton (along with co-writer Victoria Strouse), who once more directs with an assist from Angus MacLane.
The sequel stretches beyond credibility when newcomer octopus Hank (a testy tangle of tentacles with chameleonic powers voiced by “Modern Family’s” Ed O’Neill) is somehow able to maneuver a runaway truck on a crowded highway when he can’t reach the pedals or see over the dashboard.
“Finding Nemo” was propelled by its perceptive depiction of a single parent’s overwhelming need to protect a child, especially one with an undersized fin, instead of letting him fend for himself and gain a sense of independence. Here, Stanton calls upon the same sort of primal instinct when we initially meet Dory as an innocent, big-eyed, kiddy-voiced guppy whose concerned parents Charlie and Jenny explain how she must always tell whoever she meets, “I have short-term memory loss.” Or, as she sweetly calls it, “short-term remember-y loss.” Instead of her daffy-go-lucky grown-up self, Dory is a helpless tyke whose recall vaporizes almost instantly because of her learning disability and she inevitably wanders off into the undertow, leaving her despairing mom and dad behind to devastating effect.
The movie fully takes off when the older Dory experiences an electric jolt of a flashback and, with that brief flicker, realizes she actually has parents. And off she goes, with ever-grumpy Marlin and supportive Nemo following soon after, to locate her family. She might be looking for her parents, but Dory is really unearthing her own identity and manages to stir up other defining memories along the way, no matter how fleetingly. That includes the sources of her inspirational motto, “Just keep swimming,” and how she came to speak “whale.”
In the end, the “happily ever after” adventure is still appropriate for viewers of virtually all ages, and Dory’s story is ultimately uplifting, as is the movie’s treatment of her disability, which is never ignored. Finding Dory’s themes of teamwork, perseverance, family, friendship, and unconditional love are relatable for even the littlest kids.
Sources: commonsensemedia and rogerebert