Wed. May 22nd, 2024

Renowned For Sound

For the latest music reviews and interviews

Film Review – Finding Dory

3 min read

In her very first scene in 2003 ‘s Finding Nemo kind-hearted regal blue tang Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) explains to Marlin (Albert Brooks) that she suffers from short-term memory loss. Dory says the condition runs in her family, or at least she thinks it does, and then pauses for a moment to pensively wonder “where are they?”. It took thirteen years but that question is finally answered in Finding Dory, the best sequel to come out of Pixar Animation Studios since Toy Story 2.

Finding Dory picks up six months after the events of the original, with Dory, Marlin and Nemo (this time voiced by Hayden Rolence) enjoying life on the Great Barrier Reef. Dory is her usual sunny self until she accompanies Nemo to school one day to witness a manta ray migration. The teacher explains that migration is about going home and that the rays are driven by instinct; “something deep inside that feels so familiar you have to listen to it”. This triggers a crisis in Dory, who finally remembers something specific about where she’s from and the parents she lost years ago. Marlin is reluctant to venture out into the vast, dangerous ocean once again, but the cautious clownfish puts his fears aside and he and Nemo set out to help their friend find her family.

It turns out that Dory’s home is the Monterey Marine Life Institute in California. We learn via flashback that Dory lived there with her loving, supportive parents Jenny (Diane Keaton) and Charlie (Eugene Levy) until a mysterious event separated the family and left a vulnerable, young, amnesiac Dory alone in the open ocean. In a deeply sad montage we watch Dory go from creature to creature asking for help getting home, gradually forgetting where she’s from, who her parents are and finally what she needs help with in the first place, all the while aging from a child into an adult. The sequence masterfully conveys the terrifying, isolating nature of Dory’s condition, and suggests that Dory’s optimism, eagerness to bond with and help others and tendency to apologise for herself may have developed during this prolonged wandering period as coping mechanisms.

Finding Dory still

Thanks to the assistance of old friends Squirt (Bennett Dammann) and Crush (hilariously voiced by screenwriter and director Andrew Stanton) our central trio soon arrive in California and Dory enters the Marine Life Institute. Inside she meets a cantankerous septopus (an octopus with seven tentacles) named Hank (perfectly played by Modern Family’s Ed O’Neill) who begrudgingly agrees to help Dory navigate the massive institution. Along the way they encounter Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), a short-sighted whale shark who taught Dory to speak whale when she was a child and Bailey (Ty Burrell), a beluga whale suffering from psychosomatic echolocation issues. Meanwhile Marlin and Nemo devise their own plan to get inside the institute and find their friend with the help of Fluke and Rudder, a pair of affably lazy sea lions voiced by The Wire castmates Idris Elba and Dominic West.

Like its predecessor, Finding Dory is frequently breathtakingly beautiful. Undersea environments like the immense kelp forest off the coast of California are rendered in such incredible detail that you could almost stare into their murky depths for the entire 103 minute running time. Hank the septopus is a staggering technical achievement all by himself and one can only imagine the level of skill and effort it must have taken to animate Hank’s fiendishly flexible locomotive abilities.

For all its visual loveliness, Finding Dory ultimately succeeds because of the simple, universally resonant story at its core. Viewers of any age will be able to relate to Dory’s deep, primal need to find her family and her home. The film also provides an intensely moving depiction of a disabled individual who learns to own both her limitations and her strengths, like her ability to form deep empathetic and emotional bonds with other sea creatures who can help her when her memory fails. Dory’s “just keep swimming” philosophy is a source of inspiration and empowerment for characters like Destiny, Hank and Bailey, and for anyone who has ever felt overwhelmed, helpless and afraid that rather than give up they should have faith in themselves and keep on swimming.