More like Finding D’aww-ry amirite?
In truth, Finding Dory was not a sequel that ever needed to exist. Finding Nemo was and still is a masterclass animated movie, but it was a very contained story. While it has its fans, the weren’t that many folks desperate for a sequel. So, surely that must mean the movie is just a poor, paper thin cash grab, right?
Well, as much as I don’t like unnecessary sequels, I very much have an admiration for films that can prove that any idea can be turned into an enjoyable movie. And yes, Finding Dory does prove that a sequel to Finding Nemo wasn’t such a bad idea.
Set one year after the events of the first movie, where Dory starts to get flashbacks of being a child, and remembers losing her parents, yet not how. Wanting to find them, Dory receives help from Marlin and Nemo, who help take her to a marine rehabilitation facility in California. There, Dory is accidentally separated and taken into quarantine, where she meets a grumpy octopus named Hank, who offers to help her find her parents if she helps him get a ticket to the Cleveland Aquarium. Meanwhile, Marlin and Nemo try desperately to find Dory again, employing some rather bizarre methods.
While the story might sound very similar to that of the first movie, it definitely feels like a fresh and new experience. And this is largely down to the character of Dory herself. The movie is very focused on exploring her character, and watching her trying to remember her past. She repeatedly remembers things that add to the question of where her parents are, but always leaves loose ends hanging. This is very beneficial to the film, as not only does it make sense to her character, but it genuinely leaves you curious, wondering just what did happen. Even though the story is relatively similar, Dory as a protagonist is quite different to Marlin in the first movie. While Marlin always stuck to his primary goal of getting to Nemo, Dory seems to spend a lot more time interacting with the characters she meets along the way, many of whom are very enjoyable to watch.
And, the one thing I definitely feel needs to be brought up here is the message of the movie. The original Finding Nemo had a strong message against overprotective parenting. Here, the message as arguably even more mature. It centres all around dealing with a disability, as well as how to treat friends and family who have disabilities. The movie makes it clear that Dory’s short term memory loss is very much a problem, but it doesn’t suggest it’s something that can easily be fixed, nor that it can’t be lived with. In one particular scene, after previously having avoided going through the pipes out of fear that she’ll lose her way, Dory ends up having to go into the pipe system, and begins to forget the directions. This scene is surprisingly tragic to watch, with Dory realising she just can’t remember, and just how lost she’s become. However, the movie doesn’t sugar coat things with a “you can do anything” message by having her suddenly remember. Instead she finds a way to call to Destiny, her whale shark friend, who helps her through the pipes with the assistance of Bailey the Beluga and his echo location.
While the movie doesn’t act like Dory’s condition can just magically vanish or be cured, at the same time it shows her learning to live in spite of it. Taking Marlin’s previous advice, Dory decides to cope using the method of thinking “what would Dory do”, which helps her find her way and act in the moment.After this proves successful the first time she tries it, we get a very subtly heartwarming scene of her quickly repeating the phrase to try and use it again, showing her confidence building.
On top of this, it becomes clear that Dory isn’t the only one to learn a lesson. Marlin spends part of the movie coping with the fact that he may have been too harsh on Dory over things she has no control over. Hank the octopus at first seems mostly like a self centred jerk, but gradually it becomes clear to us that he suffered some kind of traumatic experience in the past that may have had something to do with touch pools, and it becomes clear to him that Dory is a friend who can help him soften up and get through his trauma.
The film isn’t without its faults of course. Marlin and Nemo’s plot for example feels a little underdeveloped by comparison to Dory’s, and it seems strange that Hank’s backstory (and fear of touch pools) is never elaborated on.
Nevertheless, this is a movie with stunning animation, strong characters, and an overall heartwarming story that well and truly can be fun for all the family.