Finding Dory (2016) ☆ ☆ ☆

While Finding Dory is not the wonderful film that Finding Nemo was some thirteen years ago, it is a thoughtful follow-up which accentuates many of the same themes that its predecessor did.  It’s all about finding one’s home, finding one’s way in the world, and becoming self-sufficient.  And while there are no big scary sharks in this long-awaited sequel, there are scenes that may be frightening to younger viewers — and possibly disturbing to adults as well.  Because, just as in the first film, the ocean is a big, dangerous, scary place, and another important theme is facing one’s fears and overcoming them.

Co-directed by Andrew Stanton and Angus MacLane, Finding Dory is not nearly the colorful adventure that the first film was.  This one is more introspective, and ultimately much sillier by the time it reaches its highway blockade climax.  Like all Pixar films it boasts strong characterization and exceptional interplay between those characters; when Nemo admonishes his father Marlin for insulting Dory, it resonates.  New characters Hank (an octopus), Destiny (a whale shark), Bailey (a beluga whale) and Dory’s parents all have important roles to fill; so much so that the secondary characters from the first film, while still present, barely registered for me.

I must admit that I had very personal reactions to this movie.  Aside from the relief of not having to worry about Bruce the shark, I was struck how much is made about Dory’s short-term memory loss.  Sure, it’s her defining feature, but the movie seems to say that if she tries hard enough and has lots of help that she can overcome this adversity; as she nears home she remembers more and more and is able to find her way to her parents all by herself.  That’s great for an optimistic happy ending, but I got the distinct impression the film was making a parallel with human memory diseases like Alzheimer’s — and there is no happy ending for that.  Being increasingly forgetful myself, I was surprised how much I found myself feeling like Dory, yet not really trusting the conclusions to which the story lurches on its way to its rollicking conclusion.

Of course, kids and their parents may not notice this and probably wouldn’t care anyway.  It is a movie, delightfully drawn, clever and funny and as touching as can be considering how silly it all is.  I certainly recommend it, despite my misgivings regarding its too-good-to-be-true conclusions for Dory.  ☆ ☆ ☆.  17 August 2016.

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