A first movie review! SPOILERS!
Why do I start with this one? Because I went to see it last night. in a torrential downpour that knocked the power out twice in the theatre.
I loved this movie, and as a friend said on facebook "brace yourself for all the feels". It is a lovely movie about memory, getting lost, discovering family both blood and chosen, and what happens when our flaws might actually be gifts. But its also about fish, whales and a 'septipus' at an aquarium, and Sigourney Weaver.
I do suspect that, while this is a children's movie, the current trend in Pixar films, since Toy Story 3, is actually aimed at people my age (31). Much of the nostalgia they play with in their films is, as is true for Disney generally, aimed at the parents of the children who watch their movies, and I am in that target group. So perhaps for you it was not 'all the feels' but it sure was for me.
I think the glaring cultural note that it touches on is feeling helpless or without options. This is a voice I hear in every corner of society these days in a variety of different ways and for different reasons. Us dominant culture folks (white, middle class, educated, able bodied, English speaking and citizen being my places of huge cultural privilege) flounder these days in the 'we didn't know' and the 'we don't know what to do now' the first I hear in Marlin's words to Nemo as they search for Dory, he just doesn't realize that his frustration with her is more about his privilege as one who remembers and is able bodied (as opposed to Nemo with his small fin, and Dory with her lack of short term memory). He also goes on when this is pointed out to him, to initially continue to look at the situation with his own perspective while calling it 'what would Dory do?' fortunately his love for his son and his belief in his friend allow him to change this perspective and see the world in a new way. If only it were that easy in life.
For Dory this helplessness or lack of options comes both from her own fear, and from the worlds expectations. Both of which are the journey of the film, her moving beyond both. Her fear is lived with poignancy and adorable clarity with flashbacks to her childhood and memories of her parents trying to help her navigate a world where her memory struggles make it difficult to function. They do this at every turn with love and hope, but also with sadness for her in this struggle. This legacy as well as her reception by the many fish she meets after getting lost serve to compound her understanding that she is helpless and others may love her, but find her to be more like a child than an adult (fish) because of her lack of memory and tendency to wander off. As the movie progresses and in particular through her relationship with Hank the 'septipus' sees that it is not the way most people/fish function, but it makes her who she is, and that is a great thing. Her ability to see past what the world has told her are her limitations comes only with a task that is more important than her limitations, and a literal new pair of eyes encouraging her, in this case because he wants something from her, not (initially) out of love or friendship. There are problems with this portrayal of disability, this does continue a narrative we able bodied folks really like about redeeming disability or making it a non issue in some way, when those who live in a world that causes them to struggle because of abilities their bodies or minds don't have that others do, don't get treated as whole people but often only as their disability. However, I suspect, and from some reading on the internet see that some disability communities really enjoy this portrayal because Dory is not the only one with a disability of one kind or another. Nemo has a tiny fin, Hank is missing a tentacle, Destiny is nearsighted, Bailey is temporarily unable to use his sonar, Becky the bird has a mental disability of some sort (that is mostly exploited along with that of Gerald the sea lion), and overall the diversity of ability and reactions to ability reflects better what the world and people are like than many other films that tackle the same issues. If I am missing something as an able bodied person, feel free to offer links to other ways of looking at this in the comments, or raise issues. I know that this is an area where I am a person of privilege and may need to be called on some things.
The conclusion about this hopelessness and fear is that family and community can teach us how to value one another and ourselves in new ways, and can teach us that our privilege is actually a limitation to our perspective and to our relationships. A lovely conclusion and a movie that was well worth the trip.