by Bonnie Anderson and Dan Webster
‘Finding Dory’ made history on its opening weekend setting a box office record for an animated feature; more than $136-million.
And it’s easy to see why. This is a terrific film. The animation is astonishing. Sometimes you forget that’s not a real wave or the horizon is something drawn on a computer.
But it may not be for everyone. Social media chat asked if this film would be good for adopted or foster children. Happiness for Dory is finding her parents. That may not translate for everyone in the audience.
It’s a follow-on to ‘Finding Nemo,’ the 2003 animated feature with Dory as co-star. But Nemo, the adorable clownfish, is front and center here. The voices of Ellen DeGeneres (Dory), Albert Brooks (Marlin), Ed O’Neill (Hank), and Diane Keaton (Jenny) only help to make this film believable, entertaining and enjoyable.
There in the deep we find Dory who is forgetful (short term memory loss, she says) but nonetheless possessing gifts of imagination and resourcefulness. Dory, who in a pinch commandeers Nemo (Alexander Gould) and his dad, Marlin, to get help searching for her lost family.
The search mainly takes place at the Marine Life Institute obviously inspired by California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium, where adventures ensue. Her unlikely pal is Hank, the septopus (who would be an octopus if all eight arms were still attached).
In a time when some General Audience films carry messages of subtle violence and veiled bullying, ‘Finding Dory’ sends a message, among other things, of friendship, parental love, acceptance, perseverance and loyalty. We see that with our gifts come challenges. And we see that meeting our challenges is graced by the friendship of others. The sea creatures in this film are a diverse group, but, like us they hold the hope for release and freedom.
It’s a fairly common understanding among spiritual folk (even if not “religious”) that we humans each have particular qualities or “gifts” that make us uniquely who we are – given by the Holy Spirit. Of course, looming within us as the other side of our unique gifts are the challenges we each face – also given to us by God.
Dory found help, whether from mammal, mollusk or fish because there was a oneness among the sub-surface families who saw a fellow creature in need and did something. A pretty good example for those who wish to follow Jesus.
As Louis Armstrong reminds us in song near the close of the film, “I see skies of blue, and clouds of white, the bright blessed day, the dark sacred night. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”
Bonnie Anderson is a very active lay leader in her parish, diocese and in the wider Episcopal Church. She is an experienced community organizer and lives in suburban Detroit. Dan Webster is an Episcopal priest in Baltimore, Maryland and a former broadcast news executive. But don’t expect only east coast urban perspectives here. As it turns out, they both grew up in Southern California. They blog about films and faith at Faith Reels