Pixar Animations Studios delivers another gem of a film in Finding Dory, the sequel to 2003’s popular ocean adventure, Finding Nemo. Maybe not as innovative as Nemo or as ingenious as Inside Out, Finding Dory still manages to elicit loud laughs, a few tears, and some poignant moments about the true meaning of family.
We meet a baby Dory (Sloane Murray) with her parents, Charlie and Jenny (Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton). They attempt to impart to Dory the things she needs to know to stay safe, especially since she suffers from short-term memory loss. Their biggest fear is that Dory will swim away from them and not remember how to get back. And that’s exactly what happens.
Fast forward a bit and we get a quick recap of how an older Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) ended up with Marlin (Albert Brooks) and Nemo (Hayden Rolence), seeing how instrumental Dory was in helping Marlin find Nemo when he was lost in the ocean. With no short-term memory, Dory’s memories filter into her dreams.
Then, one day, the impossible happens. Dory gets a flash of memory. She has parents! Realizing she lost them, she takes off at lightning speed that very instant, in typical Dory fashion, determined to search until she finds them. Marlin and Nemo agree to help her.
Finding the Folks
Much craziness ensues in the course of their journey and Dory keeps getting flashbacks giving her more and more information about her parents. When Dory is caught and put in quarantine at the Marine Life Institute, she meets friends new and old. Hank (Ed O’Neill), a septopus – octopus who lost one of his tentacles— helps Dory move from place to place in a hilarious assortment of liquid-holding things. Destiny (Kaitlin Olson) is a near-sighted whale shark and a childhood friend of Dory’s who, with her new beluga whale friend, Bailey (Ty Burrell), helps Dory navigate the pipes that connect various sections of the Marine Life Institute. Dory hopes to get to the Open Ocean exhibit, where, according to Destiny, she grew up.
SPOILERS AHEAD! There are so many wonderful themes in Finding Dory that I have to spoil some plot points to talk about them. You have been forewarned.
When Dory gets to the Open Ocean exhibit, her parents are nowhere to be found. You see, when Dory got lost, her parents left the exhibit in order to find her. Dory is crushed not to find her parents there but her eternal optimism doesn’t let her quit. Her journey continues.
WWDD – What Would Dory Do?
Meanwhile, separated when Dory was snatched, Marlin and Nemo keep getting foiled in their attempts to catch up to Dory. If you saw, Finding Nemo, you know that Marlin can be a bit pessimistic, always finding the worst in a situation instead of the best. At one point, he and Nemo are stuck with no logical way to go forward in their search. Nemo asks his Dad, “What would Dory do?” The optimistic little blue tang fish acted with her heart instead of her head all the time. She took what logical thinking would consider undue risks. So Marlin goes against his natural inclination towards caution, throws it to the wind and, encouraged by Nemo, does what Dory would have done.
When Dory discovers that her parents have gone out to the ocean to look for her, she returns there with the help of Destiny and Bailey. Dory’s optimism is in danger of running out when she spots a shell in the sand and has another flashback: in the Open Ocean exhibit tank, her parents used to make a trail of shells that she could follow if she swam away from home. As Dory begins to follow the shell, the camera pulls back to reveal a central point with shells leading in every direction like the rays from the sun. But nobody’s home.
Thinking that her parents will never be found, a dejected Dory starts swimming away, only to come face-to-face with two blue tang fish with fin-fulls of shells. Finally reunited with Charlie and Jenny, she learns that they have gone out every day since she got lost to lay shells, hoping one day that she would find her way back to them.
Like Finding Nemo before it, Finding Dory shows well the unconditional love of parents for their children. Dory’s parents never gave up and laid shells all over the ocean for the day she would come back to them. Dory never gave up, either. There were so many seeming dead ends in her path, but she did not let those stop her from finding those whom she loved and who loved her.
The film also showcases the love of friends. Marlin and Nemo were not technically Dory’s family and at one point in the film Nemo asks Marlin, “does this mean we have to say goodbye to Dory?” No, true friends are family, willing to lay down their lives for a loved one.
The film also makes a great point about disability. Dory suffers from short-term memory loss but her parents still love her for who she is and they do all they can think of to show her that love. So many times in our culture, those with disabilities are bullied, ignored, or mistreated by others. Finding Dory offers a way to talk about the proper way to treat people with disabilities, especially to children.
Just Keep Swimming
When we might feel strung out from the journey God has set us on, maybe we can take inspiration from Dory, who tenaciously clung to her goal, no matter the obstacles. With God’s grace we can just keep swimming. Maybe a better way to think about it is this: (get the tune in your head) just keep loving, loving, loving. Just keep loving.