Monday, June 20, 2016

Looking at Movies (First Run) - Finding Dory (2016)

I have to admit that I was taken aback at how popular Finding Dory has become. I had no idea the hype machine behind this movie was so strong and it brought out crowds far larger than the ones that went to Captain America: Civil War. It is always touchy when a movie has so much hype, because extensive hype always creates inflated expectations. Luckily, Finding Dory lives up to those expectations and delivers a fun night at the drive-in.

The truth is that the character of Dory saved the movie Finding Nemo, and it is only right that she gets her own movie. Aside from Albert Brooks being boring in live action and animated movies, Dory was the only character in Finding Nemo with an interesting personality. She dove head first into situations that most people would have run from, and in the end she saved the day. She gets the same treatment in Finding Dory, and the results are just as entertaining.

Finding Dory is a very different kind of film than Finding Nemo. For one thing, you can tell that the producers of Finding Dory were being very careful with the aspects of the story and Dory's character that dealt with brain damage and real mental health issues. Sure, it is just a cartoon. But with everyone looking for something to get mad about, a lovable fish with dementia is walking a very thin wire.

To my mind, the producers did an excellent job at creating humor that laughed with Dory and not at her. To be honest, this is a story of triumph and inspiration for people who are experiencing mental health issues, and that could be one of the things that makes the character and movies so popular.

Finding Nemo had a lot of peripheral characters who played significant roles in creating the comedy and telling the story. With Finding Dory, we get only one peripheral character who spends any great amount of time establishing parts of the story, and then we get a series of other characters who pop in and out of the story intermittently. Nemo and his father Marlin needed help in making their story interesting; Dory doesn't. There is lots of Dory in this movie, and that is the way it should be.

As you can tell, I don't find the characters of Nemo and Marlin to be very worthwhile at all. If it weren't for Dory, not nearly as many people would care about Nemo and Marlin. At one point in Finding Dory, Nemo and Marlin completely drop out, and they are not missed. Dory fills the time just fine, and she does so in some very empowering ways.

It is possible that I am pulling too much out of a kids' movie, but it just seems to me that the storytellers put a great deal of thought into telling Dory's story. Not just the story in the movie, but the story of Dory's internal struggle to find her memory. In one very telling scene, Dory is frantically swimming through a very dark stretch of water that creates a situation dripping with symbolism. As she starts to find clues to help her find her way, the light slowly creeps into the background. It is a scene that is well done, and it was a scene that helped to bring even more emotion to the story.

Of course, many parts of Finding Dory are plain silly. The comedy in this movie is on par, if not better, than Finding Nemo. There is just enough time with the peripheral characters to make them funny and interesting, but not so much time that we get bored with them. Basically, this is the story Finding Nemo should have been and tried to be. What makes this movie successful is that Dory is the intentional focus of the film, which puts Nemo and Marlin in the background where they belong.

Parents and children will love this movie. The humor reaches across the age gaps and touches everyone. There is nothing here parents should have to worry about, and parents should be prepared to sit by their child's side and enjoy the movie with them. I strongly recommend Finding Dory, and I recommend seeing it on the really big screen at your local drive-in.

Rating: 4 out of 5

George N Root III is a cartoon movie fan that refuses to call them animated features. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3, or send him a message at