‘Finding Dory’ has a Muddled Message about being Handicapped

Everyone’s favorite forgetful fillet of fish is back along with Marlin, Nemo and a few gratuitous cameos in the incredibly late sequel to Finding Nemo, Finding Dory. This time around, Dory has a sudden flashback and remembers her parents and drags Marlin and Nemo on a cross-ocean trek to find them.

It’s okay.

Not incredible. Not terrible. Not awe-inspiring or awful… just okay.

It’s not for a lack of trying, mind you. This movie has some beautiful things to look at and, setting most of it in an aquarium and rehab center kept it from becoming a simple retread of the first movie, but Finding Dory just can’t emerge from the shadow of its first movie and become its own. It will be forever remembered as: “Oh yeah, I forgot that Finding Nemo had a sequel! I think it was pretty good!”

But hey, I’ll take an okay to pretty good sequel to Finding Dory over what is sure to be a towering mound of vomit in the form of Cars 3, may it flop hard and cause several firings and suicides.

Okay, maybe not suicides… but firings. Yes.

Overall, I don’t have a mountain of negative things to say about Finding Dory. It is a sweet movie with a good message that people with disabilities can be capable people. Dory, for example, has her short-term memory loss. Hank the Octopus (Ed O’Neil is amazingly hilarious in this role) is missing a tentacle (tentacle, you perverts), we have a whale shark who can’t see, a Beluga that can’t his is sonar, Nemo with his little gimpy fin… all of them are capable and can do anything that a regularly abled person fish can do… unless you’re mentally retarded, that is… then you’re to be laughed at.

Okay, here’s my negative thing about this movie. There’s a couple of characters: Becky, a bird, and Gerald, a seal. Both of them are presented as laughably stupid characters and are presented to be giggled at, but aren’t they mentally disabled? Obviously, Becky and Gerald have some sort of learning disabilities and, to present them as characters of scorn and ridicule, seems to run directly in the face of Finding Dory’s message that differently abled people fish seals animals can do anything. Sure, you can argue that Becky and Gerald do eventually redeem themselves and come out on top, but by then, they’ve been made into clowns.

Normally, this wouldn’t bother me. I’m not a monster and don’t go around laughing at people with Downs, but if you’re going to push this message – rather bluntly at times – you gotta push it and not fall into the trap of stereotyping in a movie that’s supposedly anti-stereotype.

But, other than that, I liked it. Finding Dory can’t shake the shackles of its predecessor and, to be honest, maybe it shouldn’t. It’s not a classic, but it does manage to be a sequel that is at least good and doesn’t carbon copy the first movie scene for scene — at least, not at first.

Sure, there’s a misstep with the moral of the film, but even that misstep, as forehead slappingly insensitive as it is, is at least forgivable.

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