It may not be Pixar’s best film yet, but, Finding Dory, the story of a blue tang with short term memory loss is very good by any film standards—live action or animated. As per usual from Pixar, you’ll feel the full range of healthy human emotions. The story may not be as inspired as Up or Inside Out, but Dory’s fable is strong enough to support a poignant ecosystem of feeling and ideas—themes as deceptively simple as the film’s titular fish.
I could go on about the film’s great cast of characters, the voice acting, the empathy creating defamiliarization of marine life, or the incredible animation and art direction. This is not surprising. It’s become so standard faire for the studio that it nearly goes without saying.
But the one thing that makes Finding Dory memorable and worth a watch is the way in which the movie deals with disability. The film is admirably invested in empowering its characters to overcome mental, physical, sensorial, and developmental impairment. Finding Dory is to disability as Inside Out is to depression.
This thematic conversation is sometimes obvious as in Dory’s memory issues or Nemo’s lame fin, but throughout Finding Dory disability takes the form of stubbornness, fear, self-doubt, or self-interest. The character “failings” that make us who we are. Finding Dory is as much about Dory finding her family as it is about us finding the strength to preserve over our own shortcomings and to find the patience and empathy to embrace the flaws in others. None of us are perfect, so why hold another to that standard?
It is said that every great author only really explores a handful of themes across all their work. Pixar is no different. At the heart of all their tales (short and feature length), is a call for acceptance and understanding of those that are different from us. It’s a message so humanistic that it’s difficult to argue against. Finding Dory may be categorized as a children’s film, but the lessons it has to teach are as important for the adults to learn as for the kids.