This weekend, Finding Dory will be released in theatres, and it appears like it will surpass the previous record for the biggest opening weekend for an animated feature. The movie now has a 95% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and Peter Sciretta of /Film termed it “more humorous and heartbreaking than its predecessor.”
Finding Dory was entertaining, but I didn’t think it was any better than its predecessor. It heavily copies plot points from the original movie and other Pixar movies, but it makes up for its lack of originality with compassion. Although it mainly succeeds, there is one annoying aspect of the movie that I just can’t seem to get beyond. There are some movie spoilers below.
Finding Dory is apparently about embracing individual diversity, particularly those of persons with disabilities. Even though it is an annoyingly inconsistent aspect of her personality, Dory’s short-term memory loss has an interesting impact on how she behaves. She can be more impulsive and risk-taking because it mostly forces her to consider only the immediate surroundings. Marlin uses the phrase “What would Dory do?” to help himself and Nemo out of a pickle at a crucial scene in the movie.
Finding Dory, however, establishes a hierarchy of intelligence that distinguishes between animals that can communicate and those who cannot. The animals that have the ability to communicate have inner lives, go on adventures, have the capacity to aid others, have a wide range of emotions, and generally feel and behave like complete human beings. Then there are the non-verbal creatures, like Becky and Gerald.
Marlin and Nemo are guided around the marine habitat complex by Becky, a loon with the ability to fly. Her facial features are intended to make her appear frantic and stupid. My audience laughed a lot at her freakiness, as I believe that was the intention. Marlin often makes fun of her stupidity. However, Becky’s story is at least redeeming because at the end of the movie, after being influenced by Marlin and Nemo, she helps rescue the day. Thus, even if Becky herself is unaware of what is happening, her usefulness can at least compensate for any mental shortcomings she may have.
Gerald the marine lion is another example. He initially appears when Fluke and Rudder, two sea lions lounging on a rock next to the ocean facility, are talking to Nemo and Marlin. Gerald is designed to come across as ignorant with his silence and his wide-eyed, blank expression. When he tries to take refuge atop Fluke and Rudder’s rock, they yell him down and enthusiastically shove him back into the water. These comedic scenes received a positive response from my screening audience.
These two people had the air of cheesy jokes. They convey a pretty clear message to the children in the audience: It’s acceptable to make fun of those who are different from you or who are less intelligent than you. Yes, Dory has a disability. She doesn’t, however, substantially differ in appearance or function from the majority of the other characters in the movie. However, Becky and Gerald are fair game. That’s demoralising and incongruous for a movie that’s all about how anyone can accomplish anything.
How do you feel?