Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Finding Dory Among Pixar's Magic

The friendly-but-forgetful blue tang fish begins a search for her long-lost parents, and everyone learns a few things about the real meaning of family along the way. 

Finding Dory is written and co-directed by Andrew Stanton, returning to Pixar after the live-action fiasco of John Carter. Pixar movies have been so consistently good for so long now that they carry the burden of infinite expectations. Anything less than a masterpiece is eventually a disappointment. That’s why Finding Dory   is… fine. It’s not Toy Story, The Incredible, Finding Nemo or even Inside Out. But it’s a perfectly enjoyable family film, a little bit like what we got when I was younger – back in the 90s, Disney used to ship straight to DVD/VHS those Lion King spin-offs. Unfortunately, you also feel a sense of déjà vu. Dory’s quest to be reunited with her parents is more or less the same exact fate that a little clown fish named Nemo.

Dory, that adorable, excited blue tang fish, suffers from short-term memory loss. The slightest distraction or break in concentration wipes her mind clean. The creators have done something better: they figured out how to take an already perfect character and deepen her in an exquisitely satisfying way. In a flash, a character with a singular funny trait comes at us in a whole new way. She’s no longer a goofy amnesiac. She’s a child fish with a serious disability.

There’s real emotion. You feel every bit of Dory’s panic and her parents’ desperation – something that any father or mother who’s ever taken their eyes off of their children in a supermarket can identify with (I assume). On her own Dory grows up and matures into the impressible, caffeinated stammering of Ellen DeGeneres – who is the heart and soul of the movie. Like Robin Williams before her in Aladdin, Ellen DeGeneres has this gift as a comedian to keep the film moving and speeding along. Dory’s glory is that her amnesia makes her completely responsive to life. This film eventually is about how the past, for her, isn’t really so past. It’s just the ability to remember life as we’re living it, one moment at a time.      

As surely as the death of Bambi’s mother, the premises of this movie rips a small emotional hole in the audience’s heart. One of this film most important messages is how resonant Dory will be for parents of children with disabilities. To them, life can feel like a lonely struggle where anxiety constantly affects their state of mind. If you are invested hard enough, the film’s message to these parents is: you are not alone! Dory’s failing memory may be a handicap, but it’s also the key to her resilience. Finally, this movie like many before it invites you to dive in with your eyes, which is why these movies are submersive daydreams for children. Who needs 3D glasses? Even if you – like me – happen to see this film in 2D, just about every shot in it pops out at you with beauty.

Overall through her journey, Dory learns to remember what life is all about. This film doesn’t quite fit in the top drawer as it lacks that full-on audacity of imagination. Yet, it has so much soul and heart-of-the-ocean visual poetry that some of us will cherish it as a classic. 

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