Directed by | Andrew Stanton
Produced by | Lindsey Collins
Screenplay by | Andrew Stanton, Victoria Strouse
Starring | Ellen DeGeneres, Albert Brooks, Hayden Rolence, Ed O’Neill, Kaitlin Olson, Ty Burrell, Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Idris Elba, Dominic West
Run Time | 97 minutes
Certificate | U
Plot | A year on from the events of Finding Nemo, a flashback to a childhood memory reminds Dory that she had been looking for her parents on the day she originally bumped into Marlin. She sets out to find them, while Marlin and Nemo pursue her, worried that her short term memory loss will make the journey perilous.
Review | In 2003 Finding Nemo swam onto the big screen and into the hearts of adults and children alike. Thirteen years on, Finding Dory now tries to emulate the success of its predecessor. The question is, does it ride a similar wave of creative success, or is it left to flounder in the shallows?
The short answer is, “more of the former than the latter”. The longer answer is a little more nuanced.
While the trailers may ostensibly have implied that Finding Dory is a film about family, it’s actually a tale about living with disability. For the most part, Finding Dory handles this theme adroitly. Each of the principal protagonists has an identifiable issue that they overcome over the course of the run-time. Joining the returning trio are: Hank, a seven-tentacled squid (voiced expertly by Ed O’Neill); Destiny, a near-sighted whale shark (Kaitlin Olson); Bailey, a beluga whale with faulty echolocation (Ty Burrell). All three are smartly written and shown to overcome their problems across the second half of the adventure.
The pick of the additional cast comes in the form of Diane Keaton and Eugene Levy as Dory’s parents Jenny and Charlie. Warm, engaging and genuine, this a straight up excellent bit of casting.
Finding Dory is almost as good as Finding Nemo. The mostly excellent cast make what they can of a solid-if-not-spectacular script. Some will criticise the setting as being less exotic than Finding Nemo, and they will be sort of correct. However, whereas Nemo was as much about the journey, Dory is a little deeper with its themes (as mentioned earlier). Still, while there is excitement, it’s a little less awe inducing.
The only major sticking point harkens back to a point made earlier, relating to how disability is handled with individual characters. There’s a couple of characters introduced about half to two-thirds of the way through (Gerald and Becky) that clearly have some kind of learning disabilities.
The problem comes when they are the butt of jokes and their appearances are played off for laughs. Becky is a loon (type of bird), has a bedraggled appearance, and only seemingly has a limited perception of her surroundings. Marlin chides Becky a fair few times, implying she is stupid. The only upshot of her mini-arc is that she is shown to be integral to the big finale.
Gerald’s case leaves a worse taste in the mouth. This is character that does not (cannot?) speak, has a unibrow and a deliberately overly placid look on his face. In the few scenes he is in, he is bullied by fellow sea lions Fluke (Idris Elba) and Rudder (Dominic West) simply because he wants to sit on the same rock as them, there is very little redemption in his storyline.
It is possible that these observations are something of an overreaction. It may not have been picked up on had the plot not so clearly been about both the acceptance of, and overcoming, disabilities. To this reviewer, the scenes and characterisation stuck out like a sore thumb. It must also be said that these scenes must total no more than five minutes of screen time between all of the interactions of both characters. This misstep aside, Finding Dory is still a very enjoyable film – just a flawed one.
The Verdict | For the most part, Finding Dory is almost on a par with Finding Nemo and – one particular misstep aside – is a good attempt using a children film to teach children about living with disabilities.