My name is Dory and I have short term mem- um… what was I saying? After thirteen years, the blue fish with a fresh look on life is back and is more… she’s more… what’s the word..? Hi, I’m Dory! Finding Dory just goes to show that a pleasant attitude, a few jokes here and there, and millions of fans who follow your talk show like a religious cult can make even the wildest dreams come true.
In 2003 we found Nemo. One year later he’s still safe at home with his father, Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks), and adopted aunt-figure, Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres). The only thing that has really changed is Dory’s memory. Dory seems to be growing out of her short-term memory loss (like mild childhood asthma) and visions of her parents are starting to swim back into focus. Suddenly remembering things she hasn’t had the capacity to care about in years, Dory can’t resist the urge to find her home and be reunited with her kin. The only trouble is that her parents live in California… in a marine conservation facility… with a disembodied Sigourney Weaver overlord.
It’s out of the ocean and back into the tank for these conveniently small fishies. Half of Finding Dory rushes by with mad out-of-water flapping across a theme park (how convenient that the park uses salt water in everything from mop buckets to water bottles), while the other half floats back to memories of Dory’s childhood. Dory’s childhood, by the way, hits a level of adorable only possible in a Pixar short film. Her proportionate breakdown is essentially 10% fins, 20% overbite, and 70% eyes. I once saw a puppy that hit the same level of cuteness and I passed out on the spot.
Dory’s tour around the marine facility introduces her to a school of new characters that, when reading about them initially, nudged at my skeptical bone. It’s always a tough business bringing new characters into an already comfortable on-screen community. One way to make the introduction feel seamless, like you’ve known these characters all along, is to give them names that harken back to your favourite childhood memories. Exhibit A: Baily Beluga. The little white whale on the go. Except not on the go because captivity has been pretty good to Baily and he’s in no hurry to swim out to sea. Baily Beluga (voiced by Ty Burrell), Destiny the whale shark (voiced by Kaitlin Olson), and Hank the septapus (voiced by Ed O’Neill) guide Dory around the facility and assist in her physical search for her parents and mental search through her Fort Knox memory bank. Meanwhile Marlin and Nemo are on the exterior haggling with sea lions and trying to unravel the mystery that is Becky – who will surely be the star of Pixar’s next movie, What’s Up with Becky?
Like Finding Nemo, this sequel is a magical experience in both story-telling and artistry. Visually, the design technology may be thirteen years ahead of Part 1, but Finding Dory manages to maintain the style of Finding Nemo whilst discretely sanding down the edges a bit. The result feels smooth, seamless, and fluid. Just like the story.
Finding Dory keeps the adventure running through endless obstacles, separation anxiety, and dead ends. At first it feels like there aren’t as many of the quiet moments that made Finding Nemo so emotional and memorable, and that so much human intervention messes with the aquatic mood. But I was wrong. The inland element separates Finding Dory from Finding Nemo, and gives it a fresh environment in which to play, without repeating all the things that we already marveled at in the first chapter. Finding Dory is more about uncovering the past and all the pieces of one’s self that are defined by it – and less about finding P. Sherman, 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney.
Finding Dory is destined to be a family favourite on repeat in the living room. Part of its magic comes from the unique plot, where our hero doesn’t struggle against an evil villain, a weighty lie, or a ticking clock. Finding Dory’s only “enemy” – if you have to pick one – is Dory’s inability to remember. Because of this absence of a solid evil to point to and wish eternal damnation upon, Finding Dory leaves you with a comfortable sense of wholeness. Like apple slices that have been magically glued back together. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men finally put their floaties on and got some work done. This is one to see. Go laugh. Go frolic in the paddling pool of your imagination. Go open your heart to Olympic-level adorableness. Finding Dory is a surprising 9/10.