Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 37 min.
Our content ratings:Violence 2; Language 0; Sex/Nudity 0 .
Our star rating (1-5): 5
I consider the days of old, and remember the years of long ago.
Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them,
does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?
But when he came to himself…
Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son. But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate.
Disney/Pixar’s visually stunning new film is a big success at the box office, as well it should. As with most films from the two studios, it is a film for children and adults to enjoy together while being reminded of the value of family and friends for dealing with life’s difficulties. More of a revisit than a sequel to Finding Nemo, this time clown fish Nemo is a supporting character, whereas his friend from the original Dory, the blue tang fish with the short memory, takes center stage,
In some brief flashbacks the stage is set by showing Dory’s problem—unable to remember anything for more than 10 seconds—not as the basis for humor, but now as a serious disability that is no laughing matter. Her parents Charlie and Jenny (Eugene Levy and Diane Keaton) try to protect her. They instruct her on how she should introduce herself, but she quickly forgets. She cannot even finish a game of hide-and-seek because of her forgetfulness. At one point she gives them a shell, which will be crucial later on in the film. Near the edge of the great drop away they warn her about the undertow, and it is this which catches and whisks her away far out to sea.
When the lost Dory asks for help she cannot remember her parents or their name or where home is, so the strangers pass on. Much later at the Great Barrier Reef, still lost, it is Marlin (Albert Brooks) and then son Nemo (Hayden Rolence) who encounter and stay with the now older Dory (Ellen DeGeneres). They hook up with Mr. Ray (Bob Peterson) who is teaching a migration class to small stingrays. Dory has flashes of a memory but cannot hold on to them. Fortunately Nemo hears her lying in the sand where she mutters “Jewel of Morro Bay, California.” Realizing that is where her parents might be, the three hitch a cross-ocean ride on the back of a sea turtle named Crush (Andrew Stanton). What follows is a madcap series of adventures off the shore of California that includes being chased by a large squid and Dory getting caught up in a plastic six-pack ring. Throughout the incidents something will trigger a new memory in her, each fragment leading the little fish closer to her goal.
Near shore Dory hears a recorded voice (Sigourney Weaver), “Won’t you please join us as we explore the wonders of the Pacific Ocean and the amazing life it holds within. Witness the majesty of the beluga whale…” She is near the Marine Life Institute, and after being caught and put in a tank there, she meets cranky Hank (Ed O’Neill), an octopus able to hilariously blend in with the background. Seeing a yellow tag attached to Dory, he tells her that she will be among those being shipped off to a Cleveland aquarium. He agrees to help her find her parents in exchange for the tag. Although no one else wants to go to Cleveland, the depressed octopus would rather live there in dull safety than be released back into the dangerous ocean.
The last slapstick section of the adventure includes still more creatures assisting the lost fish– a near-sighted shark, a beluga whale, a pair of lazy sea lions (more curious spectators than helpers), and a bird who carries the bucket of water which enables Dory to move from place to place while on land. The manner in which Dory finds her parents is a truly moving moment, one for which we were unknowingly set up for when young Dory gave her parents a sea shell.
Though this is the emotional climax, there is more to come because a number of Dory’s new friends are slated to be shipped off to darkest Cleveland, so Dory and company swim frantically off shore to keep up with the truck transporting the sea creatures along the coastal highway. Dory, the lost daughter seeking her home and parents, is now Dory the rescuer—and also the one who revives in Hank a desire to embrace life again rather than submit to the exile of Cleveland. Dory has discovered that her loss of memory has heightened her sense of living in the moment, of appreciating each one as precious and unique. Now with her memory enhanced, though still shakey, she has acquired friends whose support has been so invaluable that she is not likely ever to forget them.
The script is filled with sight and word gags that young and old will enjoy, as well as clever ways by which Dory and Hank maneuver around the Marine Life Institute. Older viewers (at least those who do not live in Cleveland) will laugh at the references to the old put downs of the Ohio city, once so devastated by economic blight that it became the butt of countless jokes.
I was taken by the similarity of Dory’s being lost to the “lost and found” chapter of the Gospel of Luke. A woman searches for a lost coin. A shepherd goes out searching for his lost sheep. A prodigal son is lost in “a far country” where “no one gave him anything.” Dory is a bit more fortunate in that she has friends to help her find her way home. And the thing they have most in common are loving parents. In Jesus’ parable a loving father rushes out to greet his lost son returning home at last. Dory’s parents are like that father, hoping against hope that their stratagem involving sea shells will lead their daughter home.
Still another lyrical tale that came to mind while watching Pixar’s parable–that of the wonderful way in which the lost son was welcomed back in the popular song “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree.”
The film also might move believers beyond the theme of lostness to reflect upon and treasure the role that memory plays in Judaism and Christianity. The Psalmists and the prophets all urged their people to remember the mighty acts God. Jews celebrate Passover, and Christians the Eucharist, both spiritual meals of remembering. Without her memory Dory cannot find her home, and without memory people of faith are cut off from their spiritual home. Thus this animated film offers plenty of food for thought and discussion for church groups—though hopefully, such a discussion will not become so heavy that it spoils the fun of the film!
This review with a set of discussion questions will be in the May issue of VP.