Friday, June 17, 2016

The Blue Tang Identity

A funny thing happened on my way to see Finding Dory.

See, for whatever reason, I couldn’t quite remember why I wanted to catch this sequel to the marvelous Oscar-winning underwater adventure Finding Nemo. There was a lot of reluctance in my step from the moment I went to get ready to leave my place.

For realsies, and I’m not trying to be smart here – this had nothing to do with how discombobulating the last few days have been. It just dawned on me, as I approached the multiplex, that I wasn’t as invested in or as excited about this follow-up as I should have been. As I once would have been. Mind you, it’s not that I didn’t welcome submerging into the world of cute fish seeking once again, but I guess it simply comes down to how the lead-up today was – for me – uneventful. Like, this film was not that big a must for me.

I reckon that’s mostly because I’m not anywhere near the same headspace I was 13 years ago when the original first came out, and that’s both good and bad: Yay for growing up, but nay – nay! – for almost going and losing grip of my sense of wonder. So thank you, Disney and Pixar, for doing what you do oh-so-well and for allowing me to reconnect with that feeling we all get from watching movies.

From watching your movies.

Finding Dory, in a reprise winningly starring the voice of Ellen DeGeneres as the forgetful blue tang, is both prequel and sequel. The story – which was painstakingly co-conceived and co-written by returning director Andrew Stanton – clues us into our title heroine’s past, her condition (you will recall, won’t you, that she suffers from short-term memory loss), and where she comes from, indeed. A year after she proved instrumental in helping clownfish Marlin (Albert Brooks) find his son, Nemo (now voiced by newcomer Hayden Rolence), our girl is beginning to remember. All these bits and pieces about a beautiful past she once thought lost are starting to come back to her in deeply felt flashes, so she decides that she’s gotta find hers, y’ know.

After she manages to recollect where she hails from (the California coast!), she convinces Marlin to leave the safety of the Great Barrier Reef and join in on her journey toward self-discovery, lest she forget. The trio then embarks on another trip across the ocean with the great hope that Dory may be reunited with her origins, and, of course, she eventually becomes separated from Marlin and Nemo outside this Marine Life Institute seemingly governed by Sigourney Weaver (oh yeah: Recurring Gag Alert!) to which they were led by her fractured memories. At this juncture, at this place that rehabs, nurtures, or relocates marine life, the narrative splits, and Finding Dory becomes a proposition about finding a missing fish and about fish finding herself.

You may bet that Dory succeeds in her task, with the aid of her innate audacity, the much-needed sense of family her clownfish clan has brought into her life, and unflinching allies new (Ed O’Neil steals the show as Hank, an ornery septopus with dreams of solitude and three hearts of gold) and old...ish (Kaitlin Olson, from FXX’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, pops up as a near-sighted whale shark who used to sort of know Dory as a child). Meanwhile, Marlin and Nemo, in their frantic attempt to locate their friend, come across a couple of sea lions (one voiced by Idris Elba) and a veritable loon named Becky (who does not have good hair).

Given that nostalgia is so right now, I say go see the impossibly vivid Finding Dory to catch up with old friends, with characters you met more than a decade ago, but stay to ride the wave of questions brought on by surprisingly thought-provoking plot. You may end up considering if one can keep swimming without knowing why?

For my part, I shall try to answer by taking in the dear advice: What would Dory do? It’s more than a catchphrase. It’s wisdom.

My Rating ***1/2

Photo: Walt Disney Studios.

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