You May Not Want to Find Dory This Weekend

Earlier this week, Jody and I had the chance to pre-screen DisneyPixar’s Finding Dory, and I must say that this, for us, was THE most highly anticipated pre-screening we have attended to date. Our kids were green with envy (we only get two tickets to pre-screenings, so our kids have to wait for the theatrical release like everyone else). Even our husbands were bummed that they couldn’t make it to this one.

Finding Nemo is one of my all time favorite animated movies. In fact, I think it’s such a great example of top notch storytelling that I use it whenever I teach basic storytelling techniques to kids. I’m not alone in my opinion on this film. It won the 2003 Academy Award® for best animated feature. In 2008, the American Film Institute named it among the top 10 greatest animated films ever made. And at the time of its release, Finding Nemo was the highest grossing G-rated movie of all time. It is still the fifth highest grossing animated film worldwide. The film has more than 19 million Likes on Facebook, and Dory—with more than 25 million—is the most liked individual character from any Disney or Disney•Pixar film.

So with all those accolades in mind, we were pumped for a GREAT sequel. And Disney•Pixar knows how to do a sequel. I’m not sure which Toy Story is my favorite. They are all so good, and I think I might have liked Monsters University even a tad bit more than Monsters Inc.

Boy were we surprised by Finding Dory!

Finding Nemo instantly drew us into the plight of its main characters. In the opening scene, we were delighted for the young fish couple Marlin and Coral who just bought their first home and were expecting a clutch of baby clown fish. And then we were shocked and grieved when nearly everything was ripped away from Marlin in a tragic barracuda attack that took Coral and all but one egg. So naturally, we sympathized with Marlin’s helicopter parenting compulsions, and when the unthinkable happened, and Nemo was scooped up by the monstrous diver, we were fully invested in Marlin’s quest to find his son.

Along the way, we encountered surprising and endearing situations and characters like the AA-style shark meeting who chanted the mantra, “Fish are friends, not food,” and the thrill-seeking, surfer-dude sea turtle Crush and of course, Marlin’s adopted sidekick Dory. The journey had great momentum. With every new situation and encounter, we sensed we were getting closer to finding Nemo.

In the meantime, there was a captivating B story with Nemo in the fish tank at the dentist’s office that had its own set of interesting characters and an additional threat — Darla, the dentist’s fish-killing niece. Plus, all of it, from the fish tank to the ocean was visually spectacular.

Although both Nemo and Finding Dory were directed by Andrew Stanton, who also directed WALL•E, the sequel had none of the elements that made the original so great. Although it was endearing to meet a young Dory (albeit incredibly sad, as you learn more about her short-term memory loss disability and witness some of her nearly-too-painful-to-watch struggles), we weren’t quite as invested in her sudden plight to find her family. Perhaps it’s because it seemed to come out of left field. There wasn’t a distinct inciting incident. You could almost sense that the real reason for Dory’s quest was to give Disney’s most beloved character a vehicle for her own movie.

From the moment the journey started it just seemed to go in circles. We couldn’t feel a forward momentum toward the goal, and after a short while, we found ourselves wanting to get off the merry-go-round.

The visuals didn’t help. In stark contrast to the vibrant colors of Nemo, Dory felt drab and even dingy at times. There weren’t any truly memorable moments, and although this might sound strange since we’re talking about a flick of talking fish, many of the scenarios in Finding Dory felt contrived and unrealistic. At least in Nemo, the situations they encountered seemed plausible in the ocean world.

Jody and I were so sad and disappointed. The car ride home from Tampa felt almost depressing.

So although Finding Dory opens in theaters everywhere tonight, we’d suggest you skip this one, and wait for it for to come on video. Head to the beach, have a barbecue or go on a family hike instead. You’ll have a more memorable weekend.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of seven kids (ages 1 to 20) including one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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6 thoughts on “You May Not Want to Find Dory This Weekend

  1. I am in total agreement!!!! We went with the same expectation and left wanting. Too bad…great material but poor writing! Have to say they missed the mark on this one. Wait for redbox

    • We totally agree that the script was the problem. They had great actors and a strong production team, but it was poorly written, in our opinion (and yours too). Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts!

    • That’s a really good question, and I’m not sure what the answer is. We weren’t thinking about that during the movie, so we didn’t look for hints, but in hindsight, I can’t say I remember anything that would exclude a G rating.

  2. I agree with you that it was not the stellar film that Nemo was, but as a mom af a special needs child (like I am), I would have thought it would have touched your heart like it did mine. I so felt the plight of Dory’s parents worry over their child ever being able to make it on her own with her memory loss issues. They were the pillars of patience, love and support while she was young and learning differently that her fishie peers. They never gave up on her being able to find them, on her own with the foundations they so lovingly laid for her. Look at from your own special needs parent perspective and it might just be a better film than you thought.

    • You raise a very valid point. Dory’s parents were AWESOME and so inspiring for parents of special needs kids. I’m sorry that I overlooked that. I love how they gave her tools to help her function well within the confines of her challenges. But on a very personal level, I had a super hard time with some of the scenes from Dory’s childhood. They were incredibly painful for me to watch, which may be the result of sensitivities that I wasn’t aware of arising from my own experiences with a special needs child. Still, your perspective is a really good one. Thank you for sharing it!

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