I never intended to see Finding Dory. Something in my head combined sequelmania and how I found Dory fairly annoying in Finding Nemo, and it just switched off my interest. But, ah, the hazards of being an uncle: if the kids get Finding Dory for Christmas and want to watch it a hundred times, you watch it with them. Period. 😉
I was quite surprised by it. Yes, very surprised indeed, in a good way.
The story they created around Dory was far more compelling than I’d imagined, and very emotional. Perhaps I should have guessed that much, as it features Dory’s search for her family, but it could have easily been done in a sloppy, ham-handed way. It wasn’t.
Pixar’s approach to Finding Dory was fairly simple: set the objective, and throw in complications. That leaves a lot of room for developing both the story and the characters. Both were done brilliantly.
The story, as we saw in the trailers, revolves around Dory the amnesiac suddenly remembering something from her youth: her parents. So off she goes, with Marlin and Nemo accompanying her, to find them, following a series of clues that jog memories from her childhood. It’s not easy, though, and things go wrong, especially when they pass through very real danger. Soon enough, they get separated, and then not only is Dory looking for her parents, but Nemo and Marling are looking for her.
That makes not only for Dory’s development into a more confident person, with her own unique, surprising strengths, but also for the development of those around her.
Marlin learns, and remembers, what Dory brings to the table. He and the other fish of the reef didn’t have to take Dory in after she helped him find his son, but they did, and dealing with her can sometimes try their patience. A lot. But in nearly losing her, they remember what a blessing it is to have her in their lives. She makes things brighter, more fun. She shows them the virtues of less thinking and more doing, going with your gut and trying crazy things. She shows them that they don’t have to be afraid of everything.
That holds similarly true for Hank the octopus, or “septopus,” as Dory calls this seven-legged master of disguise. He fears the ocean, and his drive to avoid going back (they are in an aquarium at the time) motivates him to help Dory, giving him a crash course in dealing with her as her friends do. Soon enough, as he learns to navigate her obnoxious quirks, he finds himself a little changed by the experience, even going back to the open ocean with her.
Marlin, Hank, and others are all changed for the better by their proximity to Dory, but there is still the question of how well Dory could possibly function on her own. That answer is given at the emotional climax of the movie, as Dory finds herself deprived of all her friends, old and new, lost and alone again, as she once was. She gets a little lucky, of course, but she also uses her head, and her instincts, and that finally leads her back home, to her family. So how would she be on her own? Eh, it wouldn’t be easy, but she’d be fine.
And all of this packaged in Pixar’s classic drama, colorful casts, and hilarious humor. Hank really steals the show, but I really loved everyone else too, especially the beluga, the whale shark, Becky the crazy bird, and the sea lions. The clam was a nice touch. Basically, I laughed my way through most of the movie. 🙂
So, leaving this as one of my shorter reviews…
Rating: I’m giving Finding Dory 8 stars out of 10.
Were I to place this in my Pixar Countdown, it would definitely be toward the forward ranks.