‘Finding Dory’: A Movie to Unite Generations

For the cynical, the sequel to the successful 2003 animated feature, “Finding Nemo,” is a double whammy–it refreshes the public’s memory of established characters and enlarges the Disney money-making merchandising machine by adding new characters to the Nemo world and, in addition, the movie promotes a popular TV talk show host, Ellen DeGeneres. Yet “Finding Dory” has its own merits and provides lessons that are good for all ages.

Starting a year after the adventures in “Finding Nemo,” as the title suggests, the central character is now the Pacific regal blue tang Dory (voiced by Ellen DeGeneres). Dory isn’t so much lost as looking. She remembers in small flashes that she once had a family and that she was also lost. If the 1000-mile plus journey from the Great Barrier Reef to Sidney (a good 20-hour drive on land), was harrowing for the father Marlin (Albert Brooks) and his new-found companion Dory (Hayden Rolence replacing Alexander Gould), then imagine a journey across the Pacific Ocean from the Great Barrier Reef to Monterey,  California.

Not having long-term memories is both a blessing and a curse for Dory. Marlin’s funny confusion that progressed into flustered frustration now becomes a poignant reminder of what can be so easily lost. Dory helped Marlin find and rescue his son, Nemo, when Nemo was plucked off the reef by a scuba diver. The happy-go-lucky Dory had been a loner, but now Dory has been adopted as sort of a ditzy aunt and now lives by Marlin and Nemo. Watching the familiar family interaction sparks a memory in Dory.

Dory had parents who loved her very much and recognized her peculiar problem of short-term memory loss. She remembers her mother and father, Jenny (Diane Keaton) and Charlie (Eugene Levy). She remembers where she was from: The Jewel of Morro Bay, the Monterey Marine Life Institute. Dory is determined to return and Marlin reluctantly joins with Nemo. They reconnect with an old friend, Crush (Andrew Stanton), a sea turtle we met in the first film and his son, Squirt (Bennett Dammann taking over for Nicholas Bird).

Once in Morro Bay, the threesome gets separated. Dory ends up in the back rooms on the institute where fish are rehabbed and then either displayed, shipped off to another aquarium or released back into the ocean. Marlin and Nemo now must find a way to break into institute, taking the advice of two sea lions, Fluke (Idris Elba) and Rudder (Dominic West).  As with “Finding Nemo,” their plan involves a bird.

Dory, on the other hand, has been tagged to be sent to Cleveland. An escape artist octopus with seven legs (Ed O’Neill), Hank,  covets that tag and helps Dory find the tank where she was born and raised, but after all this time, will Jenny and Charlie still be there? Dory also meets an old friend, a whale shark named Destiny (Kaitlin Olson) whose friend Bailey (Ty Burrell), a beluga whale who is the key to the happy ending. The movie parallels the relationship between Dory and her parents in the past and the further development of Marlin and Nemo as they attempt to find Dory.

Compared to “Finding Nemo,” there’s much more literal fish-out-of-water hijinks that include birds, a plastic bucket, cuddle-time with otters, a “septopus” driving a truck and fish in plastic bags. Sigourney Weaver voices herself as the narrator of the taped announcements for the institute. John Ratzenberger voices the husband crab, Bill. You’ll understand the ending better (and the significance of the name Gerald) if you watch or re-watch “Finding Nemo.”

Throughout the movie, small incidents trigger memories in Dory’s fish brain and we flash back to scenes of a much younger Dory with her parents.Dory isn’t, however, a useless member of the marine society. Writer (with Victoria Strouse) and co-director Andrew Stanton (with Angus MacLane) show what Nemo and Marlin have learned from Dory. “Finding Dory” illustrates the sometimes tricky pathways of forgotten memories and the movie might be helpful in teaching children how to deal with differently able children or adults suffering from senior moments or Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. This is a movie that can help build bridges between generations.

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