Earlier this year, I praised Disney’s Zootopia for being a kid’s film which made the issue of racism accessible to a young audience without necessarily taking away the complexity of the problem. Overall, I found Zootopia to not only be a good film but also contain a good message for the children watching it. Pixar Animation’s Finding Dory falls into this category of being both a good film and having a good moral for children to learn. The issue tackled in Finding Dory isn’t racism but physical/mental disabilities and how the people, or rather the fish, who have them are still very much normal and capable.
The titular character, Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), suffers from short-term memory loss, her new partner in crime Hank (Ed O’ Neill), is a red octopus who has lost a tentacle making him more of an heptapus, and Destiny (Kaitlin Olson), a shark and Dory’s childhood best-friend, suffers from near-sightedness. A few other characters in the film also have disabilities, but the point here is that Finding Dory is for audience members who find themselves reflected in the characters on-screen; these are people who may have been alienated due to their disability yet with Finding Dory, they are able to find resonance, acceptance and positivity regarding the disabilities they struggle with.
Finding Dory takes place a year after the events of Finding Nemo, and the film really isn’t so much about actually finding Dory so much as its focused on finding Dory’s past—her parents, who she was separated from after a tragic incident. One day, Dory receives a flash in her memory regarding her origins but due to her short-term memory loss, she’s unable to properly remember everything. The only clue she has, however, is enough to spur her on a new adventure in a search for her parents.
For better or for worse, as far as the narrative goes, Finding Dory is standard Pixar fare. That isn’t to say that the film is devoid of genuine emotional touches; one scene in particular, early on, focused on a young and lost Dory meekly looking for her parents, and the emotional weight behind the beginnings of her sad journey pack quite a punch. I myself just never found the narrative too compelling as the film seemed to be going through the motions of an emotional adventure drama such as this one. There’s the intrigue which begins the film, the fun of the journey, the dramatic fight between friends, the twist which pushes the story, rinse, wash, and repeat.
On a thematic level, Finding Dory is extremely commendable because of its push for inclusion on what may be an alienated group of people—specifically children whose young peers may not be so accepting and understandable due to their age. While the film is filled with endearing moments that’ll make you laugh, smile, perhaps cry, and so on, I think ultimately, Finding Dory is held back by an average narrative.