Directed by: Andrew Stanton
Run Time: 97 minutes
When Finding Nemo came out in 2003, I considered it to be a pretty perfect film. Pixar managed to create a beautiful underwater film that entertained kids and moved adults while imparting great parenting advice and life lessons—a pretty miraculous feat! I totally related to clown fish Marlin (Albert Brooks) as the overprotective dad who just wants to keep his child safe. I was thrilled to hear that they were finally releasing a sequel to the film starring sidekick blue tang Dory. My biggest surprise was that my son (who loved Nemo as a toddler) wasn’t jumping at the chance to revisit his old fish friends now that he’s almost a teenager. I guess a lot changes when you wait thirteen years to release a sequel! Still, it made me a little sad to realize that he would much rather watch a big superhero action flick than a sweet fish saga.
If the opening flashback of Dory’s childhood doesn’t tug at your heartstrings, you must be made of stone. Little guppy Dory tries playing hide and seek with her loving parents Jenny and Charlie (voiced by Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy) but quickly gets sidetracked due to her memory problems. Her parents are obviously concerned, and work tirelessly and lovingly to give Dory coping skills to manage her issue. Dory knows that she has a problem with “short term remember-y loss” and worries about forgetting her parents. Jenny assures Dory that just as she will never forget her, Dory will never forget her family.
Jenny and Charlie’s worst fears come true when Dory loses her way and is separated from her parents. This scene alone is probably why the film gets a PG rating as poor Dory becomes increasingly panicked as she races around, confused and scared as she frantically tries to remember where she is going. She asks for help, but becomes more frazzled as her thoughts escape her and she gets farther and farther from her loved ones. Dory just keeps swimming until she grows up (and becomes voiced by the brilliant Ellen DeGeneres) and encounters Marlin on his quest to find his missing son. We then fast forward to life on the reef where Dory lives contentedly with Marlin and Nemo as their own little family on their reef. All is well until talk of home and family sparks a memory for Dory and she suddenly realizes that she does have parents and needs to find her way home. Marlin and Nemo accompany Dory on her quest to find her family—at the Marine Life Institute in California.
At the Institute, we meet a host of new sea creatures including cranky octopus Hank (Ed O’Neil), friendly whale shark Destiny (Kaitlin Olson) and beluga whale Bailey (Ty Burrell) who all help Dory make her way through the Institute when she is separated from Marlin and Nemo. While the new characters are all terrific, this is when things get a little outlandish. Seeing all the fish travel from one water source to the next (using birds with buckets, conveniently located water springs, and all sorts of silly tricks) the fish navigate around dry land looking for Dory’s parents. Believe it or not, there is even a scene with Hank and Dory driving a truck—what????
Ellen DeGeneres does such a phenomenal job of giving Dory her endearing personality. It’s amazing how she is able to bring you into the mind of an animated fish. For Dory, traveling alone is terrifying, forgetting is disconcerting and acknowledging that she causes frustration to her friends is upsetting. You truly feel Dory’s struggle to deal with her fears and insecurities about her condition.
While I couldn’t buy into the crazy land-based adventures, the kids thought it was hilarious. Regardless of the silliness, the message of the film is still beautiful. It is about turning a disability into a strength—as Dory learns that her memory issues allow her to have a unique perspective on tackling challenges. It’s about the importance of friendship. And it’s about the love of family and never giving up on that love. So even if Dory’s adventure doesn’t quite equal the brilliance of Finding Nemo, it’s still a great family film that is full of heart and lots of laughs. Enjoy!