Dory’s mom and dad may not have always known exactly what to do for their adorable little blue tang daughter, but that didn’t stop them from trying their hardest.
They were convinced that a girl fish with short-term memory loss needed some simple things she could wrap a fin around. They wanted to give her a few sandy landmarks she could always swim toward even when the tides turned.
For Jenny and Charlie, no challenge was too large and no compliment too small. And their swim-against-the-current parenting style had its effect. For no matter what else she forgot, no matter how many wrong turns she took, no matter how often she repeated a task, Dory always remembered her loving mom and dad.
Now, as an adult, Dory finds herself having little flashback jolts of memory—tidbits about being caught up in an undertow as a child, and always following the shells, and a place called Moro Bay. And she knows she has to try to find a way back home. Why, her parents might be searching for her right now! So before she can lose everything she’s suddenly remembered, Dory gently tail-twists friends Marlin and Nemo into joining her on the trip.
The worrywart clownfish Marlin isn’t so excited about another swim into open waters. Who knows what sharp-toothed dangers they’ll encounter this time? But it’s kind of hard to say no after all the help his forgetful but faithful blue buddy once gave him.
It’s all-fins-on-deck to help Dory find the missing family she could never quite forget.
In flashback, Dory’s parents are definitely loving examples as they quietly encourage and teach their young memory-challenged daughter. And the film makes it clear that their type of gentle and sincere love is a wonderful goal for any family. In that, the story strongly supports the benefit of having a mother and a dad.
Dory repeatedly recalls small memories of parental lessons encouraging her to always keep trying in difficult situations. And we realize that those seemingly forgotten tidbits had actually become a part of the fabric of who Dory is. In fact, Marlin and Nemo begin asking themselves, “What would Dory do?” when they find themselves in tough spots. Eventually Marlin tells his blue friend, “You showed me how to do things I never dreamed I could do.”
It’s that brand of sincerity and positivity that win Dory a whole group of new friends who contribute to solving the mystery of her missing parents. One example: A grumpy old octopus named Hank goes from a dismal view of life to embracing its possibilities thanks to Dory’s friendship and optimism.
During a confrontation with a giant squid, Marlin tries to mollify the aggressive creature by saying, “Let us live and we’ll worship you. We’ll build a monument.”
Dory becomes confused by a young school fish’s question and starts talking about how babies are made, saying, “Well, when two fish love each other …” (She’s then interrupted.) And it should be noted that in our current cultural climate of hypersensitivity about sexuality and gender, some moviegoers are making claims that there’s a lesbian couple featured: That could only be a reference to two women walking together in a park. (There’s no accompanying indication of the nature of their relationship, and co-director Andrew Stanton’s response has been, “They can be whatever you want them to be. There’s no right or wrong answer.”)
There are several moments of peril. A few instances worth calling out: Vehicles swerve in traffic and a truck crashes; Marlin, Nemo and Dory are attacked by a large squid that snaps at them with its beak; it grabs Nemo and tries to gobble him up before a large shipping crate crashes down on its head. Dory is repeatedly stung by an anemone. A nearsighted whale repeatedly runs into obstacles.
Characters call out “heck no,” “shoot,” “oh my gosh” and the crudity stand-in “holy carp.”
Movie sequels aren’t always the big splash their creators want them to be. Fans of a surprise-hit original are often disappointed on the second go-round. And critics … well, they’re critics. But Finding Dory might just surprise some of them.
This fish-in-and-out of water tale doesn’t try to match stroke-for-stroke with Finding Nemo when it comes to story-surprise freshness. There’s no bad-fish smell here, but the pic’s slapstick adventure feels simple, comfortable and smilingly predictable. Where the film really swims like a champ is when it comes to the beating heart of things.
Let’s face it, the Dory we came to know in Nemo was little more than a cute and lovable sidekick whose mental struggles were good for a chuckle. But here she’s much more. We now see her through the eyes of a pair of loving parents who patiently want to prepare their tiny, afflicted Dory for the world she’ll soon encounter.
And then she’s accidentally swept away and they lose her.
And she loses them.
Dory’s determination to return home, then, becomes a series of teachable moments about loss, parental nurturing, friendship, dealing with handicaps and loving others. And even if kid viewers don’t reel in the full message, they’ll certainly feel the parts that most directly align with their own lives.
After all, we live in a world where things don’t always seem safe. It’s an age when everyone is perpetually connected but still somehow feels more lonely than ever. Finding Dory can’t solve all that, of course, but it says there’s hope; there are friends; there’s the ongoing, loving embrace of family to help us cope.
And the movie does it all with whale-speak joy—delivering Pixar’s patented brand of quirky characters, goofy humor and delightful animated sparkle in a package that even Dory won’t soon forget.
After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.