Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Wrinkle in Time Adoption Movie Review (Spoilers)

Shortly after doctors Alex and Kate Murry adopt the precocious, brilliant young Charles Wallace, Alex disappears. Several years later, Charles Wallace, his older sister Meg, and Kate miss and remember Alex, but do not know why or where he has gone. And then, a mysterious stranger appears, leading Meg, Charles Wallace, and a third friend on a journey across the universe to find their missing father.


The Adoption Connection

Alex and Kate have adopted Charles Wallace. Before Charles Wallace arrives, they speak beautifully about adoption to Meg, saying that, out of all of the people in the universe, how wonderful it is that they have found each other.
Alex disappears. Charles Wallace only learns of him from what Kate and Meg teach him, but he still defends Alex’s name, scolds teachers who speak unkindly of his family, and – to bring joy to Meg and Kate – tries his best to find Alex.

When Meg and Charles Wallace eventually find their father, Charles Wallace comes under the influence of an evil entity. He becomes a threat to Meg and Alex in a series of scenes with some frightening visual imagery. Alex tries to escape, and intends to leave Charles Wallace behind, intending to come back from him later, once Meg is safe. Meg refuses to leave Charles Wallace behind, however. Eventually, Charles Wallace is freed from the entity, and the family returns to their home, greeting a surprised and overjoyed Kate with her long-missing husband.

Strong Points

Kate and Alex speak very positively about adoption.

Charles Wallace loves his adoptive father, even though his adoptive father disappeared while Charles Wallace was very young. Charles Wallace identifies strongly with his family and stands up for them. Later, Meg stands up for Charles Wallace – even going against her father when he appears to be willing to leave Charles Wallace behind.

The film shows that everyone – even bullies – deal with sadness. One character, quoting an ancient poet, says, “The wound is where the light enters you.”


It could be hard for some kids to enjoy a story where a parent is lost without reason. Also, some of Meg’s classmates speak harshly to her suggesting that it would be good if Meg was gone too. One character voices that Meg’s dad “would rather be anywhere than with you.”  

Some families might find it frustrating that it’s the adopted child who gets possessed by an evil entity. It could also be very hard for some kids to see that, after a long absence, Charles Wallace’s father is willing to leave him behind.

A principal tells Meg, “You need to stop using your dad’s disappearance as an excuse for your (mis)behavior.” That might be fair advice, but then he also tells her that she should probably expect that he won’t come back. She reacts against that and prepares to leave his office; he doesn’t recognize that he’s stepped over a line, and only tells her that he hasn’t excused her.  

A young boy’s father criticizes him harshly and unfairly.


A Wrinkle in Time is a visually beautiful film with some good sibling-loyalty dynamics among adopted siblings, but themes of parental separation – and even perhaps parental abandonment – plus a scene in which an adopted child is possessed by an evil entity – may unpleasantly surprise some adoptive families. I’m most comfortable recommending this film to ages 13 and up.

Questions for Discussion

If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?

Was Alex wrong to be willing to leave Charles Wallace? Why did Meg insist on not leaving him behind?

Why were the kids mean to Meg?

Meg has a very good friend in Calvin, and a loving family. Who are some of your best friends?

Other Ideas

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Early Man (Spoilers) Adoption Movie Review

Dug’s prehistoric tribe has been displaced by the greedy Lord Nooth, who declares that the Bronze Age has begun. Dug convinces his tribe – and Lord Nooth – to make a deal: the civilizations will play a match of soccer. If Dug’s tribe wins, they get their land back. If they lose, they’ll be lifelong slaves in Lord Nooth’s mines. Dug’s confidence is shaken when he learns that, although his ancestors invented the game of soccer, they were very bad at it.


The Adoption Connection

Dug learns about his (ancient) family history, and struggles to see that it doesn’t define his future.
Some viewers may relate to Dug’s tribe being displaced by a richer, more powerful, “outsider” society. They may also relate to Dug’s confusion when he unexpectedly finds himself in a strange city.

Strong Points

Dug’s tribe is brave. They are inspired by Dug’s courage, and in return, encourage him when he becomes discouraged.

There’s a theme of inclusion in the film. In the Bronze city, soccer is viewed as a sacred game, and is limited to men. Dug’s team benefits from contributions from two different players who wouldn’t have been allowed to play under the Bronze city’s rules.


A cruel character tells the displaced Dug, “You have no home. Your kind are finished on the earth.”
For a brief, sad moment, it seems like Dug’s chief has died on screen.


Early Man is a fun, lighthearted film. Most kids will enjoy it, and it seems likely to be free of triggers for most kids. It’s possible that some kids who have felt displaced due to their involvement with the foster care system might struggle as they see the displacement of Dug’s tribe, and Dug’s overwhelming arrival in a new city, and others might be sad when it appears that Dug’s chief dies. Outside of this, this feels like a pretty safe film for all ages, and it seems most likely to be enjoyed by kids up to age 11 or 12.

Questions for Discussion

What gave Dug the courage to try to win back his home?

How did Dug feel when he found himself in the big city?

What friends did Dug depend on? Who do you depend on?

Have you ever played soccer?

Other Ideas

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The 2018 Adoption at the Movies Awards

Welcome to our fifth annual Adoption at the Movies Awards! Each year, readers of Adoption at the Movies nominate and vote for the films that they’ve appreciated the most over the last twelve months. This year, readers voted for nominees in four categories: Best Foster or Adoptive Family, Best Adoptive Parent, Best Animated Feature, and Film of the Year.

In the category of Best Foster or Adoptive Family, the nominees are:

Gru, Lucy, Margo, Edith and Agnes (Despicable Me 3). After adopting three girls in the first Despicable Me movie, former supervillain Gru married Lucy in the second movie. By the third movie, the family has settled into a normal life – well… as normal a life as crime-fighting parents can provide.

The Browns (Paddington 2). After taking in Paddington in the first film, the Browns demonstrate their love and commitment for Paddington in this sequel. Even though at times Paddington feels he has reason to doubt their commitment, their love is steadfast.

The Stevens Family (The Storyteller). The Stevens family – Maggie and her husband adopted their daughter Jen. Maggie’s husband has died, and she now struggles to build a relationship with her teenager. Maggie’s grandmother Rosemary is visited in her nursing home by Abby, a young girl who offers no information about her whereabouts. At the request of Rosemary and social services, Maggie agrees to take Abby home for a night. Over time, Jen and Abby become sisters while Maggie and Jen explore and heal from the wounds of their past.

And the winners are….  
Gru, Lucy, Margo, Edith, and Agnes (Despicable Me 3)

In the category of Best Foster or Adoptive Parent, the nominees are:

Gru and Lucy (Despicable Me 3). Although Gru initially pursued his adoption for selfish means, he has come to love his daughters, and has shown himself to be a nurturing and caring parent. Gru’s youngest daughter wished for a mother – and in time, Lucy and Gru fell in love. Now, Edith, Margo and Agnes have loving, fun, caring, and dorkily-cool people as parents.

Frank Adler (Gifted). Seven-year-old prodigy Mary has lived with her uncle Frank as long as she can remember. Frank stands up against family pressure to ensure that Mary’s brilliance isn’t exploited. He encourages her to have a normal childhood, in the face of family pressure to squeeze every ounce of productivity out of her.

Mr. and Mrs. Brown (Paddington 2). The Brown family has come to love Paddington as one of their own, and they go to great lengths to bring him back into their home when he is taken away. They also understand and respect his desire to share some of his life with his aunt. The Browns make this a priority, and fly Paddington’s aunt a great distance in order to see her nephew.

Maggie Stevens (The Storyteller). Maggie shows an admirable willingness to provide a home to a child in need. Over time, the child truly becomes part of her family.

And the winners are…… Gru and Lucy (Despicable Me 3)

In the category of Best Animated Feature, the nominees are:

Coco, directed by Lee Unkrich. Miguel loves music, but his family forbids it. Four generations ago, Miguel’s great-great-grandfather left, when Miguel’s great-grandmother Coco was only a small child. He left intending to play his music for the world, but never returned. His wife, Miguel’s great-great-grandmother learned how to make shoes, and in the generations since, her family has become famous and successful as shoemakers. Music has been forbidden from the family because of the pain caused when Miguel’s great-great-grandfather left. Miguel secretly loves music and wants to be a musician. His family will not the speak the name of his great-great-grandfather; they try to forget him. As a result, Miguel does not know who his ancestor is, although he believes it is Ernesto de la Cruz, who during his life had been the most famous singer in the land. On Dia de los Muertos, Miguel, frustrated by his family’s lack of support for his love of music, claims that he no longer wants to be part of his family. He is transported into the land of the dead, where he attempts to find Ernesto de la Cruz, but instead finds out some surprising truths about his family history.

Despicable Me 3, directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda. 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.

And the winner is…… Coco, directed by Lee Unkrich

In the category of Adoption at the Movies Film of the Year, the nominees are:

Beauty and the Beast, directed by Bill Condon. Belle and her father live in a simple, French provincial town. While the town lives its normal, everyday life, Belle and her father Maurice are noted for their peculiarity. Belle always has her nose stuck in a book, and most of the townspeople seem to think she’s strange. Belle is also particularly beautiful, and has attracted the unwanted attention of Gaston, a boorish and narcissistic military Captain who has the admiration of many of the local ladies. Gaston swears that he will marry Belle. She’s not interested, and so he will try to find a way to make the marriage happen. Meanwhile, Maurice is captured by the Beast, a prince who has been cursed to take a horrific form on account of his unkindness; the curse will only be broken if the prince can learn to love, and earn love in return, and his time is running out. The Beast agrees to free Maurice if Belle stays with him, and Belle chooses to make that sacrifice. As Belle and the Best start to develop feelings for each other, Gaston decides that his next course of action is to storm the castle and kill the Beast.

Coco, directed by Lee Unkrich. Young Miguel explores his family history in a very unique way.

Despicable Me 3, directed by Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda. Supervillain-turned-agent Gru and his new wife, Lucy, try to bring down a former child star who has turned evil.

Gifted, directed by Marc Webb. Mary is a seven-year-old prodigy. She’s lived with her uncle Frank since as long as she can remember; her mother left her with Frank shortly before committing suicide, and she’s never known her father. Mary’s mother was also a prodigy; pushed by her mother, she devoted her life to mathematics, but committed suicide rather than publishing her most significant findings. Now, Frank’s estranged mother, Mary’s grandmother, learns of Mary’s brilliance and tries to take Mary from Frank. She files a lawsuit, and now Mary’s future will be decided by the judicial system.

Mully, directed by Scott Haze. Charles Mulli was born into poverty in Kenya. After being abandoned by his family, he survived by begging and stealing. In a period of despair, Mulli accepted an invitation to church. There, he was inspired by a preacher’s message that anything is possible with enough hard work. Through hard work, perseverance and inspiration, Charles became a leading businessman in Kenya. He married and had a large family. And then he realized the extent of the needs of the children in his country, and he grasped his responsibility as a prosperous person to do something about it.

Paddington 2, directed by Paul King. Paddington has become comfortable living with the Brown family, and he still thinks fondly of his Aunt Lucy, who sent him to London from Peru. He hopes to get a special present for his Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday. He tries to save up money to buy the expensive gift, but it is stolen from the store. Paddington is seen at the scene of the crime, and is wrongfully believed to be the thief. He is imprisoned, and the Browns must work to clear his name, while he must maintain his hope that they won’t forget him.

Wonder, directed by Stephen Chbosky. August “Auggie” Pullman has been home schooled all his life, but he surprises his parents by saying that he is ready to go to a charter middle school. Auggie has Treacher Collins Syndrome; it has taken many surgeries to help him breathe and hear, but some facial abnormalities suggest the medical difficulties he has had in his life. His parents and his sister are worried; will the kids at school see past his physical appearance and embrace him? One fellow student, Jack Will, becomes a friend to Auggie, but when Auggie overhears Jack speaking very unkindly, their relationship seems threatened. Auggie’s older sister, Via, has not resented the fact that her parents’ lives have revolved around her younger brother; she has joined them in their care of him, and she loves him deeply, but as a high school student, she feels neglected by them, and the effect of their relative inattention to her is amplified when her longtime best friend Miranda stops returning her calls. Wonder takes turns following Auggie, Jack, Via and Miranda as it explores the social and emotional experience of life for each of these young people, who each struggle in their own way. It’s a compassionate and heartwarming film which captures the kindness and cruelty of kids and adults.

And the winner is….. Wonder, directed by Stephen Chbosky

Congratulations to the winning films and the nominees!

Please come back each week for our reviews of current films, and check out our book for even more family movie nights!

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Peter Rabbit Adoption Movie Review

Peter, Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Benjamin are small rabbits who are loved by Bea, a local woman who treats them as her children. They frequently invade Mr. McGregor’s garden. He hates them – and hopes to kill them. He does catch Peter, but dies of a heart attack before he can kill Peter. The McGregor estate is inherited by Thomas, who soon takes up his relative’s oppositional attitude towards the rabbits. Worse, Thomas and Bea start to fall in love; Peter is used to fighting the McGregors for vegetables, but now he fears losing his place in Bea’s life.


The Adoption Connection

Peter’s mother died, and his father was killed and eaten by Mr. McGregor. Peter keeps his dad’s jacket as a memento – and it’s in the course of reclaiming his dad’s jacket that Peter is captured by Mr. McGregor.

Peter’s triplet sisters struggle to find their own identity.

Bea has come to develop a parental relationship with Peter and his siblings. Peter feels that that relationship is threatened when Bea starts to fall in love with Peter’s new enemy Thomas – and in fact, Bea does put Peter outside at one point, to discipline him for unintentionally damaging one of her paintings.

Eventually, Bea, Thomas, Peter and his siblings do appear to form a family unit.

Peter understands that he has unresolved grief regarding the loss of his parents, and sees that that grief makes him more sensitive to the thought of losing his place in Bea’s life.

Thomas, the main antagonist, was raised in a group home after his parents died. He is playing a crosswords game, and the words he unintentionally makes are “alone,” “numb,” “abandon,” and “mommy.”

Strong Points

Peter has a close relationship with his siblings and cousin. Bea has noticed that the rabbits are without parents, and so she has taken care of them.

Peter does develop surprisingly good insight into how the loss of his parents continues to impact him.

Mr. McGregor is cruel, and tells Peter, “I’m gonna put you in a pie, like I did your dad.”

Peter remembers seeing his father killed by the farmer.

Peter tells his siblings, “Dad and mom are still in our hearts,” but then turns to his cousin Benjamin and says, “Less in yours; you’re just a cousin by marriage.” In a film that depends so much on Peter’s acceptance into Bea’s family, it’s a pretty insensitive line.

Peter seems to revel in a character’s sudden death, and seems unbothered when he seems to have killed a second person.

Thomas tries to drown Benjamin.

Peter and his friends try to exploit Thomas’ food allergies, and nearly kill him.

Bea misjudges Peter, and sends him away from her, out into the rain. This rejection could be very troubling for kids who fear being rejected from yet another home.

Thomas tries to kill Peter – and in fact, intends to use dynamite to blow up the rabbits’ burrow. When Bea discovers that Thomas had intended to do this, she breaks up with him. And then Peter starts to feel guilty – because it was Peter who had detonated the dynamite, to prove that Thomas was intending to use it. Peter convinces Thomas to come back, and Thomas, Bea, and the rabbits form a family. I’m concerned though. A new adult came into Peter’s life, intended to abuse (and kill) him, and yet Peter feels remorse and responsibility for the adult’s actions – and the film portrays Peter’s remorse as good. Kids who have been abused do sometimes feel responsible for the abuse they suffered, and they need to know that it wasn’t their fault. This film could confuse that issue. It’s also concerning that the film’s “happy ending” is that the abusive, violent Thomas does become the father figure of Peter’s family because Peter took responsibility for Thomas’ actions. It is helpful for kids who’ve experienced loss to open their hearts and to be able to make room for new people – but not dangerous, murderous people.


Peter Rabbit has some elements that suggest the potential to be quite helpful to foster and adoptive families – Peter has experienced parental loss, has a new family, understands how his unresolved loss impacts him, and sticks closely to his siblings. However, there are some trigger potentials – scenes of violence, a cruel retelling of the death of Peter’s father, Peter’s fears of losing his relationship with his new mother figure, and Bea’s misjudgment and seeming rejection of Peter could all be hard for some viewers. I’m most concerned, though, by the fact that the film’s happy ending depends on Peter taking some responsibility for the violence he experiences from an adult in his life – and that the happy ending features that violent (and even murderous) adult becoming Peter’s father. I’d recommend skipping this one for young children. Kids 13 and up would probably be able to get past the film’s challenges, but kids that old might not be interested in a film about Peter Rabbit.

Questions for Discussion

Why was Peter scared of Bea falling in love with Thomas? Do you think Bea would ever stop loving Peter?

How did Peter feel when Bea sent him outside? Was she wrong to do it? What could she have done differently?

Peter’s jacket is important to him because it used to belong to his dad. What are your most treasured belongings?

Whose fault was it that Thomas tried to use dynamite to blow up Peter’s home? What would you tell Peter if he said that it was his own fault?

What are your favorite vegetables?

Other Ideas

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Black Panther Adoption Movie Review (Spoilers)

The Kingdom of Wakanda thrives technologically, building upon the powerful vibranium that arrived in a meteorite. Posing as a third-world country, Wakanda has avoided the attention of the outside world. However, Wakanda has not been inattentive to the outside world. A Wakandan prince, N’Jobu has been living undercover in Oakland, California. (Spoilers ahead). N’Jobu has become distressed at the worldwide plight of people of African descent, and intended to share Wakandan technology with them to help them overthrow their oppressors. King T’Chaka hears of this, and travels to Oakland to prevent N’Jobu from doing this. N’Jobu attacks a friend by whom he feels betrayed, and to defend the friend, King T’Chaka must kill N’Jobu. This leaves N’Jobu’s nine-year-old son Erik alone, and King T’Chaka orders that Erik not learn the truth of his situation.


The Adoption Connection

Erik grows up to be a powerful soldier, and he takes the name “Killmonger” on himself. He reveals that he has killed hundreds in the line of duty, but his life’s purpose has been to take revenge on the people who killed his father. Erik returns to Wakanda, the country of his ancestry, and asserts a claim to the throne. Erik intends to carry on his father’s legacy of freeing the oppressed, and Erik expresses it to a further degree; he intends to ensure that people of African descent have the technology they need to kill their oppressors, the families of their oppressors, and anyone who might think about aiding the oppressors.

Strong Points

T’Challa is crowned King after his father passes; he is wise, courageous, and good-hearted. He accepts legitimate challenges to his throne, and consistently attempts to show mercy even to those who oppose him.

In a vision, T’Challa receives helpful guidance from his departed father. T’Challa worries that he is 
not ready to rule without his father; his father assures him that preparing T’Challa to reign was part of his duties as a father – and he has not failed in that duty!

T’Challa is able to acknowledge his father’s strengths – but is also able to acknowledge the areas in which his father erred – including his treatment of Erik. Even though Erik has become T’Challa’s adversary, T’Challa sees the way in which Erik was injured by the decisions made about him by the adults in charge. T’Challa’s wise compassion would be helpful for all people involved with children who have experienced loss, neglect, or abuse.

T’Challa asks to be told the truth. His servant responds, “Some truths are too much to bear.” T’Challa responds, “That is not your choice.” Understanding the truth of what happened to Erik and Erik’s father helps T’Challa understand the situation more fully, and it appears to enable T’Challa to view Erik with compassion.

T’Challa is distressed by his father’s mistakes, but another character assures him, “You can’t let your father’s mistakes define who you are. You get to decide what kind of king you will be.”

I’ve found meaning in the Aristotelean concept of “The Golden Mean,” which more or less suggests that a virtue is between two vices. In this film, T’Challa finds a virtue – responding to the needs of people in distress – and avoids vices on either side of that virtue. He rejects Wakanda’s historical unresponsiveness to the plight others, but also rejects the vice on the other side – Erik’s intention to respond violently and vengefully. Instead, he leads Wakanda in beginning to reach out to those in need with Wakanda’s advanced knowledge and resources.


King T’Chaka ordered that Erik’s true history be kept from him. So often, secrecy with regard to history causes pain. I wonder if knowing his history might have helped Erik avoid becoming Killmonger. Instead, as one character recounts, “We left the child (behind) because we had to maintain the lie.” Another character captures the decision in a heartbreaking way, “The boy was the truth I chose to omit.”

Kids who have come from violent homes could have a difficult time with the fact that Erik’s uncle killed his father, and that later, Erik attempts to kill his cousin – and ultimately dies in a fight against his cousin.

Some frightening scenes, including gun violence and murders, could push this one out of bounds for some younger or sensitive viewers.

Eric remembers seeing his father die. He doesn’t cry, though, instead reflecting on the cruel reality of his city, “Everybody dies. That’s just life around here.”


Black Panther is a thoughtful and engaging film. There’s a lot of material for conversation – both in terms of ethics, and in terms of the interplay between secrecy and personal history, which is certainly relevant to many touched by adoption. Some themes of parental loss, and scenes of violence could make this film ill-suited to very young or very sensitive viewers, but it should be good for most teens ages 13 and up.

Questions for Discussion

Why did T’Chaka order Erik to be left behind? How did that impact Erik? How could T’Chaka have handled this differently?

When have you, like T’Challa, found a virtue between two vices?

How did your parents prepare you to function independently? What were the most important things they imparted to you? What are you hoping to impart to your children?

In some ways, Erik seems to have considered Wakanda home, even though he had never seen it. Which places do you consider “home?”

Other Ideas

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