Published on October 8th, 2016 | by Dan Gvozden



In the 13 years since Finding Nemo, Pixar, the creators of that fantastical undersea wonderland, have seen both their highest highs and lowest lows as storytellers. For a long time, even the least championed of Pixar’s films still contained a dazzling glimpse into a new world with exciting new characters, challenging situations, and complicated moral lessons for both adults and children.

hfl6dsshBut now, even after a masterpiece like Inside Out, it seems Pixar is settling into a series of sequels set to revisit the characters that put them on the map so many years ago. With Finding Dory, director Andrew Stanton revisits the characters of Marlin (Albert Brooks), Nemo (Hayden Rolence) and Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) as well as many of the scenes from the original movie, often fleshing out old scenarios from Dory’s unique perspective.

This time, it is Dory tracking down lost family members; in this case, it’s her long-forgotten parents, whom a young, memory-challenged Dory accidentally abandoned and subsequently forgot. Conveniently timed moments on Dory’s rather quick quest across the ocean and an eventual series of misadventures through a marine-life rehabilitation facility trigger her to recall memories of her childhood and serve as a guide back to her parents.

Finding Nemo did not feature the most unique plotting — just crack open a book on screenwriting and you’ll see it followed every standard beat down to the millisecond — which makes Finding Dory all the more disappointing because it hews so closely to its predecessor’s plot. A simple jumble of the characters, including wonderful newcomers like Hank the Octopus (Ed O’Neill), a brilliantly designed creation whose tentacles animate as if by magic, and dramatic beats can’t hide the overwhelming similarities between the two films.

Finding Dory is a kid movie made for kids, first and foremost, but it also features powerful messages for adults who choose to look beyond the brightly lit visuals and silly antics of the sea creatures. Nearly every character in the film is attempting to adapt to a different disability, whether it be lack of confidence, a missing limb, or a lack of social grace. Disabilities are presented here as seemingly impossible problems to overcome that can be lessened if only we first acknowledge them and then work with them.

1024x1024One can’t deny the incredible sense of optimism that this story will likely provide to people from all walks of life, disabled or not. That said, even amongst those with a disability, Finding Dory is strangely cruel and mocking of two particular characters that not only are disabled but also look and behave differently from the rest of the talking characters. While chasing cheap laughs, the film inadvertently adds a wrinkle to its message of optimism and inclusion that suggests only those who look and act like “normal” people, abled or not, are worthy of inclusion in “normal” society.

For every moment of incredible emotional power, a sequence involving a large number of seashells is particularly effective, and at other times, Finding Dory finds a way to go too big and goofy. The visual effects here are just as lovely as they were 13 years ago, even though the tone and style is significantly bleaker, but many of them conjure forth a feeling of déjà vu. A large majority of Pixar’s films feature a cast of characters navigating an unsafe territory through stealth and clever ingenuity for much of their second act, to the point that it has become rather boring and predictable, but few go as bonkers as Finding Dory does in its final act. I won’t reveal the ending, but Dory and her crew find themselves engaged in a high-speed chase of sorts that strains credulity, even for a broadly comedic cartoon. But heart continues to be where Pixar excels, and just like an octopus, Finding Dory has three of them where it counts.

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About the Author

Do you remember that dorky kid from elementary school who loved movies and comic books? Dan's him, but an adult... well in most senses of the word. All that matters is that he's an aficionado of all things pop culture and wants to share his interests with the world.

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