Move over kids! I grew up with FINDING NEMO way back in 2003, so none y’all can claim to be as excited for this movie as I was!
Oh my god, the moment this movie was announced, I must have squeed for hours. I had to have been bouncing off the walls till my shoulders were nothing more than powder. FINDING NEMO was probably my favorite Pixar movie until WALL•E… and then until INSIDE OUT. But anyway, NEMO made me cry and made me cheer because it was just that damn good. It’s sure been awhile since I’ve seen it, but it’s been imprinted in my brain for so long, I remember pretty much everything about it.
Fifteen, count ’em, FIFTEEN years later, we finally get the sequel. A pretty sensible one at that. I mean, how would you be able to lose Nemo a second time and have us take that seriously? Not gonna happen. So it’s very smart to have the lost fish be Dory this time around. But she’s not lost in the same way as Nemo is. She didn’t get lost because of defiance and bad luck, she’s off looking for her parents that she suddenly remembers. Like many, I was pretty intrigued by this prospect and I really wanted to see how it would play out. With a great deal of hype and giddiness, I finally got my ticket and now it’s time to talk about it. This is my honest opinion of FINDING DORY.
It’s been one year since events of FINDING NEMO. Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres) happily lives with Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks) and his son Nemo (voiced by Hayden Rolence). One day, however, she starts to have memories of parents that she forgot about. Excited about this new memory, Dory wants to travel across the ocean once again, but this time looking for her parents. Despite some hesitation from Marlin, he and Nemo decide to join Dory on her journey, which takes them to an aquarium where Dory believes her parents reside. With the help of a friendly, but near-sighted whale-shark named Destiny (voiced by Kaitlin Olson), a curmudgeon septopus named Hank (voiced by Ed O’Neill), among many others in this harrowing adventure to reunite Dory with her family.
While I do really like this movie, I have to admit that I don’t like it as much as NEMO.
But let’s start with the good, as there is a bunch to talk about. First off, like any proper sequel, this movie does further the development of Dory as a character. Where in the first movie, she’s obviously revealed to have short-term memory loss, but later doesn’t forget things she normally would, this movie develops her by having her actually remember things. I know it’s probably a fine line for some people, but I do see a distinction, and a rather personal one at that. This makes Dory just as great a character to be invested in as she ever was. Not to mention, this movie does answer a few questions. Like where she learned to read human writing, or where she learned to speak whale, and even where she learned her famous little tune, “just keep swimming.” Oh, and baby Dory… Pixar, I like my heart of stone. It’s firm, coarse, and if need be, I can bash someone’s head in with it if I don’t like them. But baby Dory melts my heart and that’s such an unfair move. I mean, big ole eyes as big as her body, OH MY GOD I LOVE BABY DORY!!! And setting aside her cuteness, your heart does break as she struggles with her short-term memory loss. In fact, these scenes with baby Dory are easily the best parts of the movie because it shows her parents happily and patiently trying to teach Dory little techniques on how to remember things. Her memories are laced in an even balance of struggle and hardship as well as love, happiness, and support.
I won’t lie, at first, I wasn’t too much a fan of Hank. He just seemed a little too mean-spirited for my taste. But over time, I did grow to love O’Neill’s energy that he put into the character. With him, you really feel how desperate Hank is to get away from the life of this place and he wants to go somewhere safer. Helping Dory, he knows that’s going to get under his skin and his paranoia as the two traverse the aquarium, he does become a lot of fun to see him use his camouflage to fool humans into thinking he’s a human, to use overhead pipes as monkey bars, all that good stuff. Even better, it is a pretty heartfelt moment for him to start liking her and eventually doesn’t take too much coaxing to help her out. Hank does grow on you and becomes a wonderful addition to the already colorful cast that’s already presented.
But I think the one moment that solidified this movie as “really good” for me was this: sometime while Marlin and Nemo were separated from Dory, the two find themselves in a fish tank and try to figure out a way to escape it. Marlin starts thinking, “what would Dory do?” He then says that she would look around and assess her situation, to which Nemo says that’s not what Dory would do at all, that’s what Marlin would do. They know Dory would just see any way out, no matter how slim the chance, and go for it. But then sometime later toward the end, Dory found her way to ocean again, unsuccessful in finding her parents, thinking that she’s been years too late to reunite with them. In a panic, she starts forgetting things all over again. She swims away, struggling with remembering things, but then… she stops and thinks to herself… “what would Dory do?” But you wanna know what she does? She looks around to assess her situation… hey now, wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute there, movie! Who are you to be shoving in some incredibly well-written subtle subtext like that?! This is bar none, the most brilliant and emotionally gripping moment for me because even though Marlin has been hard on her, impatient with her at times, Dory still managed to cling to Marlin’s ways and due to being around him so much, he indirectly led Dory back to her family. This scene is paced so perfectly, seeing Dory take every detail and figure out even the smallest details to finding where she needs to go. This ending made the movie beyond worth it.
But, as much as I loved quite a bit of this movie, there were more than a few missteps. Some of you might remember a little indie film around Christmas time called STAR WARS EPISODE VII: THE FORCE AWAKENS. A lot of complaints about the film were centered on how much of the plot was repeated from EPISODE IV. For me, at least at the time, the repeat in the latest installment, while noticeable, wasn’t that big of a deal for me. It was dressed up enough to be exciting and fun enough to enjoy. Well… now I’m starting to see “repeat” as annoying. Yeah, there is quite a bit of that in DORY, but not the good kind. When they get their journey underway, like in NEMO where Dory and Marlin encounter Bruce the friendly shark in the dark and ominous part of the ocean, Dory, Marlin, and Nemo go through the exact same thing. Only this time, they encounter a predatory squid that glows in the dark. That’s it.
This squid isn’t a character, it’s a detour. Bruce was a detour, that’s for sure, but at least he and his friendly sharks were funny and memorable. “Fish are friends. Not food.” You remember this stuff because it’s funny and offbeat. The only point of the squid attack was to get Nemo mildly injured (which has no impact on the rest of the movie) and Marlin to get angry at Dory, who swims away looking for help, prompting their separation. That’s literally the purpose of that whole scene. What a waste.
And there isn’t much of a journey in finding the Marine Life Institute. They just sort of find it after one harrowing chase. Wasn’t Marlin just ten minutes ago saying that the Institute was all the way on the other side of the ocean? I mean, an argument could be said that he just simply made an excuse to not venture away from home, which is likely the reason why, and they do hitch a ride with Crush along the ocean current, but there’s still problems with this scenario too.
First off, the opening of the scene is Marlin riding on Crush’s shell and he’s complaining that he’s about to vomit. Wouldn’t that imply that the journey just started for them? But I think the movie is implying that they traveled a hefty distance. Has Marlin been complaining that entire time? If they didn’t travel that far, why the big deal about the journey in the first place?
Also… why was Nemo along for this incredibly dangerous and perilous road trip? Marlin, parenting, bro. Nemo’s probably got friends he can stay with.
Jumping back on the “repeat” aspect, remember when Marlin thought Nemo died in the first movie and he swims back home depressed? Remember how the water was all green and dark and gloomy? It’s at the characters’ lowest points in the movie. Without giving details away… yeah, that happens again. Again, I respect how different they handled it in this movie, but… it’s still a touch distracting.
And there is this bit that goes nowhere. When Marlin and Nemo finally reunite with Dory in the pipes, Marlin and Nemo discuss the possibility of saying goodbye to Dory when she meets up with her parents. This is pretty touching and even had me a little choked up a bit. I mean, Dory leaving this little family? No…. don’t break my heart like that! But then the ending rolls on by and… for no real rhyme or reason, Dory’s parents make a home near Marlin and Nemo. Well… that was a harsh reality that wasn’t dealt with.
As much as I’m going on and on about these little details, I can’t deny that these are just nitpicks and take up AT WORST ten minutes of this ninety plus minute movie. And really, that’s it. It doesn’t deter how enjoyable the movie is, how invested you can get, it’s still a really good, almost great movie. I highly recommend it for any family. Kids will love it, parents can relate to it, and the emotional payoff at the end is phenomenal. I think NEMO is a little better, but this is more than worthy to succeed and more than worth your time.
My honest rating: a strong 4/5
- CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE