Wednesday, June 29, 2016

You know, I think I'm gonna remember you.

Last year, upon the successful completion of kindergarten, my wife and I decided to give ourselves yet another living creature to care for our young son Matthew a fish, as a (sort of) graduation present. Immediately exiting the school parking lot (er, vacant lot across the street), we headed to the pet store where Matty promptly selected a mostly blue beta fish, despite each of us trying to persuade him on prettier ones. Milo, as he was instantly (and oddly) named, instantly became a member of the family.

Cut to just over a year later, and our dear Milo Ren (he's since got a last name), after a seemingly easy transition from plastic cup in Petco to our esteemed kitchen island, has become quite ill. He's a bit swollen and rather uninterested in eating. And while I'm doing all I can to nurse the poor duder back to health, the reality is we may have to do this whole fish thing one more time.

And if we if our forced to get another one, we certainly won't rush into it. We will take our time, and follow up our first beloved sea creature with an even better one.

Finding Dory, perhaps surprisingly, is the rare Disney summer sequel that is easily as good as the original, if not actually...better. While for some of you die-hards out there that previous statement borders on blasphemy, personally, I never really cared for Finding Nemo. It's not that it's a bad film by any stretch, but as far as Pixar flicks go, it's always been near the bottom for me.

This time around, it's Dory's turn to get lost, as the blue tang merrily stumbles through infinite adversity in the quest to find the parents she hasn't seen since she was a giant-eyed, wee one. As her dodgy memory comes and goes, Dory conjures up just enough information to get her, Marlin and Nemo headed toward a marine life institute in California.

Sure as shrimp, they get separated and Dory heads inside the institute for treatment, while Nemo and Marlin eventually find themselves headed to...Cleveland? The journey is consistently perilous, and as much as the familial bond between Dory, Marlin and Nemo is what ultimately keeps them together, there's also a bevy of newcomers that show up to lend a hand, er, fin/tentacle.

It's in this new group of sea creatures that the film truly shines, as each of the characters in the institute, like Nemo (and Dory, frankly) before them, all suffer from something that many would consider a weakness or a handicap. Instead, simply by believing in themselves and each other, these delightful animals (with Hank the Octopus, er Septopus) band together and get it done. And if you can somehow sit through the final twenty minutes and not actively root for all of them, feel free to find the closest ocean, have a few drinks, and go ahead and throw yourself into it. Cheers!

Holy (sea) cow, are these two dudes THE BEST.
Dominic West and Idris Elba should totally be in more stuff together.
While I found the complex themes involving racism, sexism and xenophobia of Zootopia [review] to be brilliantly explored, I also found them uncomfortably rammed down the tiny throats of my kids. Here, Finding Dory speaks to the abilities and self-worth of the intellectually and physically disabled (not to mention how we define family) with such a deft subtlety, I found myself oddly inspired by the film. There are a lot of us that face adversity for a number of reasons, and as cliche and as silly as it is, Finding Dory reminds us to never, ever give up.

Speaking of things that won't stop despite the incredible odds against them, here are the Yays and Boos. We actually had the chance to see this film again earlier today, but we opted for a different aquatic-based cinematic spectacle. But more on that later...

Yet another reason I don't drink coffee.
(this is one of the coolest sequences of any Pixar film)

  • So, pretty sure the cinematic record for cutest short film ever made has a new champion in the insanely adorable (and thematically consistent) Piper.
  • Crush (and Squirt)! These gnarly dudes kind of rubbed me the wrong way in the original, but I was totally stoked to see them again.
  • Sigourney Weaver's voice is always a Yay. And the fact that my son now says things like Well, Sigourney Weaver says...
  • I've already mentioned the awesome sea lion guys Fluke and Rudder, right? Well, the rest of the crew is just as rad. Becky (Rebecca, dah-ling) the loon and Gerald the (other) sea lion, among others, were particular standouts. 
  • Man, Gift Shop Escape was fantastic. Risky, but super-cool regardless.
  • Holy carp that otter barricade was just about the cutest thing I've ever seen.
  • Okay, let's be serious for a second. That was the best slow-motion vehicle in flight ever, right? I swear I almost clapped, as I was so pumped during that sequence!
  • Even if your butt's asleep, keep it there a little longer as the little bonus scene was a solid touch. I guess it's better than being in the fish tank, right?
  • And finally, Hank the septapod, is easily the star of the show. Voiced by Ed O'Neil, ol' Hank is just about the grumpiest, surliest son-of-a-gun you're likely ever to meet. But he's also one of the kindest. I'm not exactly asking for another one of these, but you can put me down for two adults and two kids to Finding Hank. 

Looks like something I should hate....but totally isn't.

  • What the heck was that creepy squid thing? Yikes. I was afraid of nightmares later that evening, but luckily I slept through the night,
  • Yo, bucket of dead fish was terrifying. 
  • The real villains in this movie? Small children who touch everything. Totally fair, by the way.
  • What was up with Clam Guy?
  • There was a point where I almost couldn't handle yet another stroke of bad luck. Seriously, we get it. Life's tough, adversity...yadda yadda yadda. Poor Dory couldn't catch a break.
  • And finally, as sort of...uh, cute as it was, seeing baby Dory lose her entire family (and mind) was rather unsettling. Luckily everyone basically decides to help her out...but still. Memory loss is terrifying at any age...but when you're a little one? Yikes.
Hopefully, my internet crash-course on treating a sick fish will turn things around for our beta. If I learned anything from Finding Dory, it's that even if you're not the smartest fish in the sea, all that counts is that if you try your best, even in the face of overwhelming adversity. C'mon, Milo. We can do this okay? I really don't want you to die, nor do I want to introduce death to Matty and Violet just yet. You heard Dory.

Just keep swimming. 


  1. I think I went through 3 or 4 beta fish in my youth. One of them ate my other goldfish after the pet shop lady swore up and down they would get along. That was disturbing.

    I loved Finding Dory. I get what you mean about the stroke of bad luck, I got a bit irritated when they kept getting turned around and going the wrong way.

    Those sea lions were THE BEST! I love that they were voiced by two actors from The Wire too. I did see some people inevitably bitching about how they treated Gerald, but I don't care. That shit was hilarious.

    Great review!

    1. Brittani, this dude just keeps hanging on. I don't want the poor bastard to die, but, man...his death is killing me.

      But the pet shop lady was apparently a moron, no? I thought betas were like the Secret Service of small tanks.

      EXACTLY! By the end, all the missed turns was torture. Like, I knew they would make it, but I don't know...I was waaaay too into it or soemthing.

      I stumbled into some talk about how the sea lions were exclusionary dicks, and I get that, but I'm with you....they were so funny (though, to further examine that comment makes me/you sound like the devil). Good times!

    2. She must have been. In retrospect, I feel really bad for one of my betas because their tank was TINY. That poor thing probably hated life. I also had one that swam in the bottom of a plant and ate the roots of it, because I guess that's a thing.

    3. Milo keeps hanging on, but according to my brother, who's like an animal whisperer, his days are numbered. Unless he's getting his information from pet ship lady...

  2. "Finding Dory speaks to the abilities and self-worth of the intellectually and physically disabled (not to mention how we define family) with such a deft subtlety, I found myself oddly inspired by the film." --> I love this! I'll definitely look for this movie when it comes to Netflix.

    1. It was certainly my job that allowed me to further appreciate some of the themes presented here. There's a lot of kiddos out there that our jerky a-holes who don't give a damn about school, but there's also a good number of them struggling to learn or feel like they can contribute. This film speaks to them...and to all of us.

      And it's really frickin' cute, too.