Tuesday, July 18, 2017

K9 World Cup Adoption Movie Review

The Mexicanino Canine Soccer Team is hoping to win the Canine World Cup, but to do so, they’ll have to overcome interpersonal pride on their own team and the imposing Doberweilers of the Herdmany team. Years ago, the Mexicanino team made it to the finals, but two players’ desire or personal glory caused conflict which got in the way of the team’s victory. Now, a veteran player Bernardo is the new national coach; he has built a team of talents from around the country, including the sons of both of the players who caused Mexicanino to lose years ago. Bernardo hopes to lead them to victory, but a greedy player agent tries to rekindle old feuds to line his own pockets.

(SPOILERS AHEAD)





The Adoption Connection

There is no strong adoption connection in K9 World Cup. There is a general theme family; two players may live out a feud that their fathers started years ago. One player’s father does not support his dreams to play soccer.

Bernardo’s daughter Maite is a soccer reporter. Together, Bernardo and his daughter remember the wife and mother that they have lost.

One player befriends a young orphan. The player complains that his father doesn’t like that he is a soccer player; the young dog replies that his father was run over and his mother left him. The young dog explained that if he had a dad, he would give up football. The soccer player’s heart is warmed, and he agrees to spend time with the youngster and teach him how to play soccer.


Strong Points

Maite encourages him to pursue his dreams, now that she has achieved her own dreams.

Juancho is very kind to the young orphan he meets, and it appears that he will continue to care for him and spend time with him – although it is a bummer that he didn’t provide the youngster tickets to the game (the youngster is seen trying to crawl under the stadium fence).


Challenges

One character’s father tells him not to bother coming back home if he leaves to play soccer. Some kids might find the threat of parental rejection difficult. Another character’s father doesn’t share that he himself had been a soccer player, instead wanting his son to “write his own story” without feelings as though he had to follow after his father.


Recommendation

K9 World Cup is an English-language remake of the Spanish-language film Seleccion Canina. The version I saw was an English-subtitled Spanish-audio version, but an English language version is accessible online. This is a simple film with Saturday-morning quality computer animation. It probably won’t appeal to kids much older than 8 or 9, but for kids 4-9 who love soccer and dogs, this could be a pleasant way to spend a morning. Although a young dog discusses having no parents, the conversation is short, and his words are met with compassion and friendship. The film’s primary message is that teamwork and camaraderie is more important than selfishly pursuing one’s own glory. Consider this one for young kids; older kids and teens will probably find it a bit boring, but young kids might enjoy the story and benefit from the positive teamwork that the characters eventually exhibit.


Questions for Discussion

When have you been the most competitive?

Are there any “wrongs” that someone has done against someone else that you’re angry about?

Do you like sports, or are other things your favorite way to have fun?

Do you think your parents support your dreams?

What are your dreams and goals?

Do you think Juancho is like a dad, a big brother, or a good friend to the young dog he met?


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Follow That Bird Adoption Movie Review

 A society of well-meaning older birds has taken upon themselves the task of ensuring that every young bird lives with a loving family of other birds. The society hears about Big Bird, a six-year-old yellow bird living on Sesame Street; Big Bird doesn’t live with other birds, but he still feels as though he has a family. Miss Finch sets off from the Feathered Friends Board of Birds to find Big Bird; she convinces him that it will be wonderful to live with his “own kind,” and Big Bird agrees to go, much to the sadness of his Sesame Street friends.

When Big Bird deplanes in Illinois, he meets the Dodos, his new family. They insist that he is not Big Bird any more, but is rather Big Dodo. They decline his request to have his best friend, Snuffy, visit, because Snuffy is not a bird, and Big Bird should have friends of his “own kind.”
Not wanting to live without access to his friends, Big Bird runs away. His friends from Sesame Street learn this, and they set off to find him and bring him home. At the same time, Miss Finch sets out to find him and bring him back to the Dodos, and local circus owners The Sleaze Brothers set off to find him in hopes of capturing him and forcing him to perform for their audiences.

SPOILERS AHEAD THE REST OF THE WAY


The Adoption Connection

Big Bird is adopted by the Dodo family; they don’t meet him until he comes off the plane, they immediately change his name, and they refuse him access to his former friends on account of his former friends not being birds. The film jumps right into adoption issues; the decision to remove Big Bird from Sesame Street is made even before the title screen is shown.


Strong Points

The Sesame Street crowd tells Big Bird that they are his family. They love him, and are sad to see him go, although they support his ability to choose for himself. When they hear he is unhappy and lost, they set off to save and reclaim him.

Miss Finch ultimately decides that Big Bird can stay in Sesame Street; he is cared for there, and she (rather self-righteously) declares that she has successfully placed another young bird in a loving family.


Challenges

It’s dangerous for kids to run away. Big Bird is caught by the Sleaze Brothers; they cage him and force him to perform. Big Bird tearfully asks some children to help him escape, and through their efforts, the Sesame Street crew learns where Big Bird is. The Sleaze Brothers nearly escape with him, but two of the Sesame Street grown ups pull off a brave rescue.

Although the message of the film seems to be that Big Bird’s family is the Sesame Street community, even though they’re not birds, the repeated refrain of several other characters in the film is that Big Bird must be with his “own kind,” and that might end up being what sticks with young viewers. In his displeasure with the Dodo family, he runs away, and they apparently never see him again. The Dodos are rather insensitive to Big Bird’s feelings of longing for his friends.  


Recommendations

Follow That Bird is an interesting offering; familiar Sesame Street characters handle adoption issues, social services, fear, and sadness in a theatrical feature. I could imagine the adoption-relevant elements of the story being confusing to the young viewers that the Sesame Street characters are most likely to interest. Kids in the 8-10 age range might be able to take some good from the film with a parent’s help – Big Bird’s family is the Sesame Street community that loves him; it’s OK if you don’t look like your family, and the film has enough of a plot to be interesting to kids in that 8-10 age range, if they’re not put off by the fact that it’s a Big Bird movie. For younger kids, a less confusing way to convey the film’s positive message might be the book A Mother for Choco by Keiko Kasza.


Questions for Discussion

Who is Big Bird’s family? How can you tell?

Did Miss Finch mean to do good or bad? Where did she go wrong?
Did the Sleaze Brothers mean to do good or bad? How can you tell?

In what way were the Dodos a good family? In what ways were they not so good?


Big Bird’s friends went to help him. Who are some of your best friends?

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Despicable Me 3 (SPOILERS) Adoption Movie Review

Former supervillain Gru and his former enemy, Lucy, have settled into life as the married, adoptive parents of Margo, Edith and Agnes, and as members of the Anti-Villain League. When he fails to capture child star-turned-villain Balthazar Bratt, Gru is fired from the League. Gru’s family is supportive – his youngest, Agnes, even sells some of her toys to try to raise money to replace his salary – but his Minions desert him. An unexpected visitor summons Gru to meet with his long-lost twin brother, Dru. Dru admires Gru’s legendary works as a supervillain, and hopes to learn the family trade from Gru; Gru has given up on villainy, but thinks he can team up with Dru to defeat Balthazar Bratt and regain the favor of the Anti-Villain League.



 SPOILERS AHEAD THE REST OF THE WAY


The Adoption Connection

Gru learns that his parents split up shortly after he was born, and that he has a twin brother. Each was kept secret from the other; Gru’s parents wanted nothing to do with each other, and each agreed to take one of the children. Apparently, each parent degraded the child they kept and idolized the child they lost. Gru is intimidated by his brother’s financial success, while Dru was not able to live up to his father’s standards of supervillainy, and looks to learn from Gru.


Strong Points

Lucy acknowledges that she’s learning how to be a mom; her first attempt at trying to be stern with Margo backfires, but when she sticks up for Margo, Margo responds by spontaneously hugging her. This reminds me of watching Gru learn how to be a sensitive, nurturing father in Despicable Me 2.
Agnes, the youngest girl, sells her cherished stuffed animal for two dollars to help the family finances. Her love is evident in this action, but it’s sad to see her give away something that meant so much to her. When Gru realizes what she has done, he tries to stop her from selling any more of her cherished items.  Gru also realizes how concerned Agnes is, and he reassures her, “You don’t need to worry. You’re going to be OK for real.”


Challenges and Weak Points

Gru’s mother says some very cutting things to him about him being a disappointment. Gru is surprised to find out that his father has only recently died, because his mother “told me dad died of disappointment when I was born.” Gru is overjoyed to find his brother, and learns that although his mother has despised him, his father was proud of him.
A series of photographs shows Gru and Dru as infants being torn away from each other; this could be hard for kids who have unresolved grief over separation.

In the midst of a spat, Gru and Dru declare that they are no longer brothers. Gru tells Dru, “No wonder Dad thought you were a failure.” They do reconcile, but it’s sad to see these long lost brothers so quickly turn towards excluding each other.

(Spoiler) Balthazar Bratt disguises himself as the girls’ mother and uses the disguise to kidnap and endanger them.


Recommendations

Despicable Me 3 is a fun, mostly kid-friendly story that captures Gru’s strengthening and expanding family. Margo, Edith and Agnes seem fully comfortable with Gru, and Lucy is figuring out how to be a mom. In Gru’s history there are issues of parental rejection and lost siblings, which could be hard for some viewers, and the girls are kidnapped and briefly imprisoned by Balthazar Bratt. One scene where Agnes takes adult-level responsibility because of her worries about the family’s finances in the wake of Gru’s job loss could be difficult for kids who have experienced intense poverty or neglect. Gru’s response to her is perfect, though. This one should be good for most kids over 8 or 9, although kids with unresolved issues or fears surrounding parental rejection, lost siblings, or kidnapping might do better with another film. 


Questions for Discussion

What makes Lucy a good mom?

What sorts of things are important for parents to know?

How did Gru and Dru feel when they met each other? When they said they weren’t brothers any more, why do you think they said it? Did they actually mean it?


Does Agnes need to worry about her parents’ jobs? She seems worried, but Gru says she doesn’t need to worry; why do you think he said that? Whose job is it to worry about stuff like that? 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Anne with an E - First Episode - Adoption at the Movies Review

Unmarried brother and sister Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert have sent away to orphanage in hopes of adding a young boy to their household to help aging Matthew with his chores. Through miscommunication, the Cuthberts are sent Anne, a young girl with a vivid imagination, a persistent hopefulness, and a strong desire to belong.

The first episode of the current Netflix production of Anne largely stays faithful to the well-loved story, but it focuses on some elements of Anne’s story – and adds one very unfortunate incident that wasn’t in the book – which might push this version of the story out of bounds for many younger viewers, even though it may still be very much worth seeing for adults.

SPOILERS AHEAD




The Adoption Connection

Anne’s parents died when she was an infant, and for as long as she can remember, she’s been in the care of either an orphanage, or of a family that hosts her in exchange for her labor. Anne comes to the Cuthbert home from an orphanage, but prior to the orphanage, Anne was living with a family that abused her and required her to care for their many small children. When the father of that family died, the mother sent Anne back to the orphanage; although Anne pleaded to stay, the mother firmly stated, “You’re not kin.”

Marilla’s nosy neighbor Rachel learns that Marilla will be taking in an orphan, and counsels her against it, citing stories she’s heard of orphans who have poisoned their adoptive families.
Anne desperately wants to belong to a family.


Strong Points

Anne represent the best in humanity – she’s hopefully, positive, loving, and profoundly likeable in spite of the abuse and heartbreak she’s experienced. Anne is also truthful, telling Marilla that Anne will never have the opportunity to be a chid.

Some of Matthew’s warmth and Marilla’s positive concern for Anne do show through.


Challenges

Anne has been abused by a former family; she was whipped, told she was worthless, told to be silent, and rejected. We see glimpses of her past abuse, and also see her fall to the ground when she is triggered by current circumstances, as she is overwhelmed by memories of her past.
Rachel Lind’s negative expectations of orphans are true to the book and the thought of the day; in the book, they’re proven wrong. Perhaps they will be in the course of this series.

Marilla is inconsistent; she is quick to threaten to send Anne away, but also acts to prevent her being taken into the home of an unkind woman. Marilla says, “you can’t make up a family; only kin is kin,” which reminds Anne of what was said in her previous home.  


Weak Points

Up until the last five minutes or so, I was really liking this episode. I love the Anne of Green Gables books, and I cheered with Anne at some of her victories. But this episode ends straying from the source material. Throughout the episode, there’s more of a focus on the possibility of Anne being sent away than there was in the book. Anne speaks challengingly to the farm boy that the Cuthberts hire, telling him that he’s threatening her chance at having a family. Rachel tells Marilla to send Anne away on the next train. The last few moments of the episode are the worst: As in the book, Marilla’s prized broach is lost, and Anne falsely confesses to its loss in order to avoid punishment. In the book, Anne is trying to avoid missing a church picnic. In this story, Anne is trying to avoid being sent away – and after she makes a false confession, Marilla sends her away. Later, Marilla discovers the broach has not been lost – Anne’s confession was only to end the discomfort of Marilla being suspicious of her. Marilla sends Matthew to the train station to reclaim Anne, but it is too late – she’s already gone, on the way back to who knows where. It’s a rough way to end the first episode, and it seems particularly cruel to Anne, whose emotions have suffered so much because adults have not been kind to her. The real Marilla – or at least, the one in the book – is a kind woman who even though she’s disappointed at Anne, has decided to keep her as family. This version of Marilla sends her away in anger and bitterness to end the first episode. It’s probably not a good choice for adoptive families to watch with their young children.  


Recommendations

The first episode of Anne with an E stays largely faithful to the source material, and does a good job of capturing Anne’s personality and likeability. The ways in which it differs from the source material might not bother most families, but the differences seem particularly relevant – and negative – for families touched by adoption. There’s a lot of scope for imagination for adults who want to watch this; enjoy Anne, and reflect on your commitment to the kids you welcome into your home. However, Anne’s reliving of her past abuse, and the recurring and realized threat of Anne being sent away from Green Gables likely pushes the episode out of bounds for young viewers who have experienced uncertainty with regard to their permanency in a home, or for young viewers who aren’t fully comfortable with their place in their adoptive family. Good for adults, consider for teens, probably not for kids.


Questions for Discussion

Why are the worst memories the most persistent?

What advice would you give Marilla as the episode ends?


Are there any behaviors your kids exhibit that might reflect past trauma they’ve experienced? 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Silences Adoption Movie Review

Octavio has been raised in a loving family; his mother, stepfather, grandmother, siblings and extended family embrace him, but he has never known his father. His mother has refused to say who Octavio’s biological father is, and she has told different stories to her own family and to her husband’s family. The one thing Octavio has been told in strong terms, is that his father isn’t Black. Octavio interviews his mother with the hope of learning the identity of his biological father.

SPOILERS AHEAD THE REST OF THE WAY



The Adoption Connection

Octavio considers his stepfather his dad, but wants to know who his biological father is as well. His family insists to him that he is not black, and his mother at various times has said that his father is Puerto Rican or Native American. Finally, Octavio learns his father’s identity from his mother; he is Black. Octavio’s mother said that the lies she told were to keep conversations and people out of her house – and we do learn that her father had threatened to kick her out if she didn’t get her life in order. Also, it does appear that her family has some discomfort with the thought of Octavio having a Black father. Octavio meets his father and is warmly received, and he also meets his paternal half-siblings. When he returns to his mother, she affirms that she sees her face in him, but he leaves unanswered her question, of whether he sees his own face in hers. Octavio wonders, now that his mother’s silence “has no power” over him, how their relationship with each other will change.


Recommendations

Silences is a short, 20-minute film that is worth watching for foster and adoptive parents, and for those considering becoming foster or adoptive parents.


Questions for Discussion

What are some reasons that Octavio may have wanted to know the identity of his biological father?

What are the reasons his mother had for keeping it a secret?

Which reasons should take precedence, and why?


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Cars 3 Adoption Movie Review (SPOILERS)

Lightning McQueen has gone from being an underdog to a superstar, but now finds himself being passed up – in the media and on the racetracks – by younger, slicker cars. When a bad crash ends Lightning’s season, he must decide whether to train for a return, or whether to call it quits. He remembers his own trainer, Doc Hudson, who was forced out of racing by an injury, and Lightning decides that he wants to go out on his own terms. With resolve, he joins forces with his trainer, Cruz, in hopes of winning one more race.

SPOILERS AHEAD THE REST OF THE WAY



The Adoption Connection

There isn’t an adoption theme to Cars 3. There are some good portrayals of mentoring.


Strong Points
The animated short before Cars 3 shows a bully named JJ who finally realizes the error of his ways when he remembers the pain of being bullied as a younger child, and his change for the better is reinforced when he sees the joy in others when he helps them instead of tormenting them. In Cars, we also learn that sometimes, a when a bully bullies, it’s because they’re intimidated of the person they’re bullying.

Cruz is Lightning’s trainer, but she has always wanted to be a racer. Her family discouraged her dreams, and so she settled for a job training other cars to race. As she works with Lightning, he also works with her. (SPOILER ALERT) Lightning makes a sacrifice to give Cruz a chance to chase her dreams, and in doing so, Lightning follows in the footsteps of his own mentor. (END SPOILER).
Cruz encourages the cars she trains that, “You can use any negative to push towards the positive.” At the same time, she encourages racers to put in the necessary work for success, “Wait until you’re ready; there are no shortcuts.”

Lightning has a trusted confidant in Mater. Lightning didn’t know how to put his problem into words, but Mater’s words are great, “I’ll stay right here with you till we fix it.”

Lightning believed that Doc Hudson thought of his racing career as his best days; however, Lightning learns that Doc actually considered his best days to be the ones he spent coaching Lightning.  

Challenges

Some kids might be sad or scared when Lightning suffers a dramatic, car-rolling crash.

Lightning breaks Cruz’s spirits when he speaks sharply towards her, unintentionally brushing up against a painful secret she hasn’t told him.


Recommendations

Cars 3 seems like a positive movie for kids of all ages; it will probably be most enjoyed by kids up to age 11 or 12. The movie, and the animated short that precedes it, can offer parents a chance to talk to their kids about friendship, mentors, and bullying. It’s worth checking out. The film also has a positive portrayal of a female athlete who decides to chase her dreams, which could be helpful for many families. It’s worth checking out.
 

Questions for Discussion

If there was one thing that you could fix, like JJ did, what would you fix?

What does it feel like to do something nice for someone else?

Who have been some of your best teachers or coaches?

What do you think your teachers or parents were like as kids?

When Lightning hurt Cruz’s feelings, was it all on purpose, or was some of it by accident? How can someone hurt someone else without meaning to? What can they do to fix it?


Lightning was able to call Mater when he needed someone to talk to; even though Mater didn’t have any answers, it helped Lightning to have someone he could trust with his unresolved feelings. Who else could Lightning talk to? Who can you talk to? Do you have any friends that you are a confidant for? 
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