I’m biased toward marine stories but Disney-Pixar’s Finding Dory is the best film I’ve seen this year. When I finished watching it, I wanted to see it again immediately. I love every character. I love the ridiculous and improbable climactic escape scene that is somehow even more uplifting and inspiring than the equally ridiculous and improbable climactic escape scene in Free Willy. It was a fun, family film for the summer, and it didn’t have to be anything more — but it is.
Finding Dory features multiple characters with both physical and mental disabilities, and it gives every single one a happy ending without being “cured” or learning to “act normal” or “ignore” their disability. Dory’s neurotypical parents not only don’t blame Dory for her memory problems, or try to fix her, they accommodate her. They change their own behavior and environment — putting shells in line for Dory to follow home — to help her. And they continue to do it even after she’s lost because they have faith in their system and their daughter. Nemo’s father, Marlin, also neurotypical and physically abled, initially worries that Dory needs to be coddled (which is different from accommodated!) and rescued. But Nemo reminds him that Dory’s always shown herself to be capable, if different, and they choose to ‘think like Dory’ in order to find her (and also get out of the predicament ‘thinking like Marlin’ has landed them in). Later, Dory rescues Marlin and Nemo, and an entire truck-ful of marine creatures, by trusting herself, her friends, and the lessons she’s learned during her adventures.
When Dory tries to act “normal” by trying to remember directions to the ‘Open Ocean’ tank, it doesn’t work. But when she trusts her instincts — because she knows and accepts how her mind works — by following signs to ‘The World’s Most Powerful Pair of Glasses’, she gets to where she wants to go. As my daughter pointed out, this is one of a few times when Dory makes what appears to be the wrong choice only for it to become the right choice:
“The movie forces secondhand embarrassment on you and then takes it away, showing that there is nothing wrong with Dory’s choices and thinking process! Which fits in nicely with Marlin and Nemo’s “what would Dory do” moments. It’s satisfying to watch everything go right for Dory, especially when animated movies often have characters make stupid choices just for comedy. This movie tells you what’s most important is to try, and people think differently and that’s a good thing, not something to laugh about.”
Finding Dory is a beautiful representation of disability, difference, and family with bonus environmentalist tips (from Sigourney Weaver!). And it’s fun!
Finding Dory is available on Digital HD and Disney Movies Anywhere now. It will be released on Blu-Ray, DVD, and On Demand November 15, 2017 (available for pre-order now).