Formulas Can Be Fun: Finding Dory

*Minor Spoilers Below


It’s sequel week here at! First Now You See Me 2, and now Finding Dory. Luckily, Finding Dory has a much more steady foundation than NYSM2. Finding Nemo is still one of the most successful animated movies of all time, critically and commercially, winning Best Animated Feature Oscar in 2004. Now it’s been 13 years, and director Andrew Stanton is back. No pressure, right?

If you haven’t seen Finding Nemo (in which case, I’m so sorry, here are my condolences, I’ll send you the DVD within 5-10 business days), don’t worry. Just take Finding Dory, switch Dory and Nemo, and the various animals they meet with other animals, and you have Finding Nemo. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad, though. Finding Dory has a lot of charm and wit to offer. Just know going in that it isn’t going to live up the the insane expectation of Finding Nemo. And that’s okay, because it’s still the best sequel Pixar has made (save for the Toy Story films).

Finding Dory starts off a little shaky, retreading old ground and reminding us of old characters. Dory is with Marlin and Nemo, and it’s clear Marlin is getting a little tired of having her around. She is forgetting things seemingly faster than ever. She’s also having flashbacks to her childhood, remembering her parents, her home, and losing them. So she gets Marlin and Nemo to help her try and find her family. Within five minutes, they’ve crossed the entire ocean, making me wonder what took Marlin so long in the first movie (the characters even express this: “Isn’t crossing the ocean something you only do once!”).

I’m not saying these Finding Various Talking Fish stories are the epitome of realism in cinema, but at least Finding Nemo had challenges that seemed logical for a fish. I sat down and talked this out with the ghost of my betta fish, Wilson, and he assured me that yes, things like trying to get out of a whale, trying to escape a tank, and trying not to be eaten on a daily basis are reasonable struggles for a fish that could probably be overcome. Finding Dory’s challenges are not in this same realm of possibility. Marlin had to follow a boat, Dory has to help an octopus drive a truck. Marlin had to ride the EAC, Dory has be guided through pipes with the help of a beluga whale’s echolocation. Marlin had to raise a son, Dory has to ride in a stroller with the help of said octopus that can live out of water.

All that said, Finding Dory shines with dazzling animation (you only thought Pixar couldn’t outdo themselves), great voicework from everyone involved (especially Ellen DeGeneres and Idris Elba), and humor. The film has some great one-liners and really funny scenes. Finding Dory never loses its sincerity, though, and there were several eye-watering moments here. I don’t want to give anything away, but I really liked how the messages of family were addressed. It’s good to have a loving family (a strongly traditional one, I might add), but also that you can make your family, and the people around you are just as important and can love you just as much as your biological parents. This message in particular is quite important for adopted, fostered, and neglected children.

Speaking of children, another message that really stands out is the idea that what others perceive of weakness can be a special type of strength. In the film, characters say in times of trouble, “what would Dory do?” For a special needs child, or anybody that feels different and out of place, this message is extremely important. We all have gifts and talents. They just may be different from what we expected.

Finding Dory is not a masterpiece, but it is still a great film. I would highly recommend it for anyone, and I hope Pixar stays this solid on future sequels. However, let’s hope Finding Marlin is not in the works.

-Madeleine D

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