Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The 2017 Adoption at the Movies Awards

It’s time for the 2017 Adoption at the Movies Awards! Each year, the adoption community votes to honor those films which best portrayed adoption in a healthy light, and those films which were most useful to adoptive families.

Adoption at the Movies is based on the belief that adoptive parents want to talk to their kids about adoption, but that sometimes, they don’t know how to get the conversations started. Movies can be easily-accessible bridges into those important but hard-to-start talks. With some planning, intentionality and a little help, movies can become both a fun family activity and a helpful tool for building healthy communication about adoption.

This year, many adoptive families cast their votes in five categories: Best Depiction of Reunion, Best Foster or Adoptive Family, Best Adoptive Parent, Best Animated Feature, and Adoption at the Movies Film of the Year.  

Best Depiction of Reunion

The category of Best Depiction of Reunion honors the films that capture the complexities, wishes, and process of reunion in adoption. The nominees are:

Father Unknown – After retiring from a career as a teacher, Urban Quint travels from the United States to Switzerland in hopes of learning about his birth father. Urban is accompanied by his son, filmmaker David Quint, who captures his father’s journey. Urban learns about his father and meets a brother that he never knew he had.

Finding Dory – A happy, forgetful blue fish remembers that she has been separated from her parents. Accompanied by other fish who have become like family to her, Dory travels to California in hopes of finding her parents. Although she fears that she will forget them or that they will forget her, she is able to find them – and finds that they have been looking for her since she disappeared. Dory’s parents do not replace Marlin and Nemo, friends who have become family to Dory; instead, they collectively form a new, large, caring family for her.

Kung Fu Panda 3 – Po the Panda, his adoptive father Mr. Ping, and his birth father Li Shen must navigate their relationships with each other while Po also must discover his own identity. Mr. Ping and Li Shen are skeptical of each other at first, but ultimately realize that they do not need to compete – they can co-exist and collaboratively love Po – and they do so effectively with what they charmingly name a “Double Dad Defense.”  

Lion – Saroo Brierley was lost as a young child, and was eventually adopted internationally from India by an Australian couple. As a young adult, Saroo began to remember his early childhood and became driven to find the village and the family that he lost. Saroo’s adoptive parents are supportive of his journey, and his birthmother is overjoyed to see him. Saroo notes that his birthmother does not replace his adoptive parents – but finding her brings closure and answers to him and to her.

Moana – After being abandoned by his human parents, the demigod Maui is adopted by the gods; however, he runs afoul of them as well. With courage, and with Moana’s help, Maui reunifies with one of the gods – and he also has found a friend among the humans.

Storks – When the storks were unable to deliver baby Tulip to her family, they raised her as their own. In her early adult years, though, Tulip is able to find her family. When she finds them, they embrace her – and the storks who have cared for her.

And the winner for Best Depiction of Reunion is….   

Filmmaker David Quint commented, "We are honored to receive this recognition by Adoption at the Movies.
While the search for identity and the longing for connection is a universal story, it is one that holds specific significance for those within the adoption community.
We hope Father Unknown can continue to help audiences and families more deeply understand the adoption experience."

Best Foster or Adoptive Family

The category of Best Foster or Adoptive Family honors the characters (and the films) that capture the sense of belonging, love, and true family that exists in families formed through foster care or adoption. The nominees are:

 Finding Dory (Marlin, Nemo, and Dory) – While Dory searches for her birthparents, she is supported by Marlin and Nemo, who themselves remember what it feels like to be separated from loved ones. Marlin and Nemo help Dory find her parents, and when she finds them she declares that Marlin and Nemo are also her family.

Kung Fu Panda 3 (Mr. Ping and Po) – Mr. Ping adopted Po when he found Po as a young cub. Although Po is a Panda and Mr. Ping is a goose, it took twenty years for Po to realize he was adopted. However, Mr. Ping eventually gave Po the full story – as much as Mr. Ping knew – of Po’s adoption. When Po’s birth father arrived, Mr. Ping eventually found that a shared love of Po allowed him to make space in his life for Po’s birth father.  
Lion (Mr. and Mrs. Brierley, Saroo, and Mantosh) – Saroo was adopted internationally from India by the Brierley family. A year later, they adopted Mantosh. Although there were difficulties and stressors in the Brierley family, the sense of family held them together. When Saroo found his birth family he still claimed membership in the Brierley family, and the Brierleys were supportive of him in his search.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (Splinter, Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, Michelangelo) – Splinter found the turtles and raised them into socially responsible ninjas. He has taught them that they are capable of doing good, and he has instilled a strong sense of loyalty to each other.

And the winner for Best Foster or Adoptive Family is… 

Finding Dory (Marlin, Nemo, and Dory).

Best Adoptive Parent

The category of Best Adoptive Parent honors the characters that love and nurture the people they’ve adopted, especially those who healthily respond to the unique complexities of adoption. The nominees are:

Kung Fu Panda 3 (Mr. Ping) – Mr. Ping has loved Po for years, and has shared Po’s full adoption story with him, or at least, as much of the story that Mr. Ping knows himself. When Po’s birth father arrives, Mr. Ping wrestles with the implications that Po’s birth father’s presence has for Mr. Ping’s role in Po’s life, and ultimately realizes that more than one dad can love Po.  
Lion (The Brierleys) – The Brierleys adopted Saroo and Mantosh, loved them through challenges, and, once they knew about it, supported Saroo in his efforts to find his birth mother.   

Moana (The Gods) – Maui has stolen something very precious from one of the gods, and he has been exiled. However, when Moana helps him return what has been stolen, the gods smile on him and restore his powers.

Pete’s Dragon (Grace) – As a young child, Pete loses his parents in a car accident; he spends several years in the company of Elliot, a friendly dragon. Pete is fascinated when he sees a human girl, and eventually her mother Grace brings Pete into the family. Grace is able to connect with her own history of loss in orcer to be helpful to Pete.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (Splinter) – Splinter has adopted four turtles, raised them into responsible teenagers, and has taught them above all else to be loyal to each other.

And the winner for Best Adoptive Parent is…

Lion (The Brierleys)

Best Animated Feature

The category of Best Animated Feature honors the kid-friendly, animated films that have been useful to therapeutically-minded adoptive and foster parents. The nominees are…

Finding Dory – A forgetful, friendly fish finds that her friends have become her family, even as she wrestles with questions, doubts, and self-guilt about her separation from her parents. Her parents have never forgotten her, and her friends have become her family as well.

Kung Fu Panda 3 – A young adult, his adoptive father, and his recently-reintroduced birth father skillfully navigate their relationships with each other while the same young adult – the legendary dragon warrior Po the Panda – must also figure out his own identity.

Moana – A young woman balances her heritage and familial responsibilities with her desire to follow her own heart; she doesn’t have to choose one and neglect the other – she finds a way to embrace both. She also helps an adopted demigod realize that his unique identity is his own creation, rather than being something given to him or forced upon him.

Trolls – Although most Trolls are happy, Branch refuses to sing; we learn that it’s because of a traumatic event that he experienced. Branch later does find happiness; he provides a way for kids to understand how trauma from their past can impact their present day emotions, and also provides hope that the sadness a child feels now doesn’t have to last forever.

And the winner for Best Animated Feature is…   

Adoption at the Movies Film of the Year

The Adoption at the Movies Film of the Year is the film selected by readers of Adoption at the Movies as a film that is entertaining, relevant to adoptive families, healthy and helpful in its portrayal of adoption or adoption-relevant issues, and useful for striking up important conversations. Past winners include Man of Steel, Big Hero 6, and Inside Out. The nominees for this year’s Adoption at the Movies Film of the Year are:

Finding Dory – Dory finds her long lost parents – and forms a large family including her parents and her very close friends – in this beautiful, mostly underwater world.

Kung Fu Panda 3 – Po figures out that his identity is shaped by his birth family, his adoptive father and his friends; his two fathers learn to collaborate with each other because of their mutual love of Po.

Lion – Based on a true story, a young man who was adopted internationally as a child, returns to the land of his birth to try to find the mother he lost, and the answers to questions that plague him.

Moana – A young woman navigates between her own individual desires and her cultural heritage and obligations, while an adopted demigod wrestles with aspects of his own identity.

Pete’s Dragon – A young boy loses his parents, is raised by a dragon, and finally finds a home with a caring human mother, who is able to connect with him because of her own experiences of loss.

Queen of Katwe  - A young girl from a very poor area of Uganda rises through the ranks of the world of international competitive chess with the help of a very kind coach.

And the Adoption at the Movies Film of the Year for 2017 is…


Thanks for visiting us for this year’s awards! Four things you might want to do:

See you at the movies!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Monster Trucks Adoption Movie Review

Tripp, a popular high school senior, just can’t wait to leave his small North Dakota town. His parents have split; his father works for an unethical oil-drilling company and is estranged from Tripp. His mother is dating Rick, the local sheriff, who has recently moved into their home. Tripp has a friend in the elderly keeper of a local junkyard, who has given Tripp the body of a car; if Tripp can make it run, he’ll have a nice set of wheels to ride around town.

The drilling company has discovered an underground community of giant creatures, but they are hoping to secretly kill all of the creatures so that they can continue drilling without having to stop; the environmentalists would not let them kill off a species, so the drilling company is hoping to keep it quiet. One of the creatures has escaped their grasp, and has taken a liking to Tripp – and has taken up residence in the body of Tripp’s car. Together, Tripp and the creature run from the drilling company’s thugs who intend to hurt Tripp and kill the creature.


The Adoption Connection

Tripp’s parents are separated. His mother has a new live-in boyfriend who is initially impatient with Tripp. Tripp’s father appears to betray him.

We eventually learn that the creature with Tripp is a child who is just trying to reunite with his parents, who have been captured by the drilling company.

Strong Points

Tripp, his tutor, and a scientist take brave actions to save the endangered creatures.

Rick and Tripp appear to have a promising relationship by the end of the film.


Tripp’s father betrays him. Tripp responds by driving a truck through his father’s trailer.

Rick is impatient with Tripp, and thinks ill of Tripp’s father. He tells Tripp, “you’re gonna wind up just like your dad,” which angers Tripp.

Tripp tries to tell Rick about the creature, but Rick doesn’t believe him and instead scolds him. This results in Tripp being pursued by the drilling company’s thugs.


The plot seems thin, villains seem caricatured, and the protagonists are rather forgettable. This could appeal to some kids ages 9-12; there are some opportunities to talk about bravery, being believed, and doing the right thing even when others are pressuring you to do the wrong thing.   

Questions for Discussion

How do you speak to your kids about their birth parents?

Why didn’t Rick believe Tripp about the creature?

Tell me about a time when you’ve done the right thing even when others were pressuring you to do something different.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Lego Batman Movie SPOILERS Adoption Movie Review


After thwarting another crime in Gotham City, Batman returns to his lair. Although a hero and a celebrity, he lives a life of near solitude. His only companion has been Alfred, his loyal butler and father-figure. Alfred confronts Batman, saying that Batman’s greatest fear is being a part of a family; years ago, before Bruce Wayne became Batman, he lost his parents. As an adult, his self-imposed solitude has worked to protect him from emotional vulnerability and loss. A sarcastic comment made Batman the unwitting adoptive parent of Dick Grayson, an optimistic, energetic young orphan. Alfred suggests that taking responsibility for Dick Grayson could be Batman’s first step towards conquering his fear of relationship. Dick takes the superhero name of Robin. Together with the new police commissioner, Batman and Robin face a new threat from the Joker, who hopes to bring Gotham City under his control.


The Adoption Connection

Bruce Wayne was orphaned as a young child, and since then has been raised by the family butler, who continues to fill a parental role in Bruce’s life, even now that Bruce is an adult – and a superhero. Meanwhile, hurt by the loss of his parents, Bruce avoids family relationships, and denies even looking at old family photographs. He refuses to acknowledge his sadness, instead saying that his only emotion is rage.
Bruce has unintentionally adopted Dick; Dick is a wide-eyed young orphan who asks a distracted Bruce a series of questions. Bruce continues to answer in the spirit of “yeah, sure, whatever,” without paying attention to what Dick is asking. That’s too bad, because Dick has been asking how to make himself more appealing to prospective adoptive parents, and ultimately asks whether Bruce will adopt him.

Dick comments that he has never had a family photo; he proclaims a selfie of himself, Batman, Alfred and the police commissioner to be his first family photo.

You might also want to check out our reviews of The Lego MovieDespicable MeDespicable Me 2, and Batman Begins – and of course, Check out our book on Amazon to see how to use films to have adoption-friendly family movie nights all year round!

Strong Points

Alfred has been a consistent, caring adult to Bruce. He challenges Bruce to face his fear of being a part of a family again. Even though Bruce denies the desire to be in relationships, his need is obvious.

Dick is thrilled to be a part of a family.

Bruce eventually grows out of his aversion to being part of a family, and eventually embraces Dick as his son.

Alfred wisely asks Bruce whether his emotional seclusion is truly to protect others – or whether its only to protect himself. He asserts that Bruce is “afraid of feeling the pain you feel when you lose someone close to you.” That’s something that will relate to many people touched by adoption. Eventually, a character asserts the positive message that, “sometimes, losing people is part of life – but that doesn’t mean you stop letting them in.”


The film presents adoption and orphans in some unhelpful and uncomfortable ways. Bruce is referred to as “the greatest orphan of all time.” Dick asks Bruce, “Do you have any advice on how to get adopted?” He goes on to list several things he could do to become more likely to be adopted including learning a foreign language and having “experimental surgery to make my eyes larger and more vulnerable looking.” He also asks Bruce whether Bruce would be more interested in adopting a “base model orphan” or one with “more upgraded features.” Bruce doesn’t really listen to Dick’s questions and carelessly answers each of his questions with a thoughtless affirmative.  Although Bruce still isn’t listening, Dick confides in him, “All I want is to get adopted so I can finally stop being alone.” Bruce still isn’t paying attention when Dick asks whether Bruce is looking to adopt, and his careless answer of “yup, yup, yup, yup” makes him Dick’s unwitting adoptive parent.

Dick shows up at Bruce’s home, and apparently has lived there for a few days before Bruce is even 
aware that he is there. Upon learning that he has adopted Dick, Bruce tells Alfred to “put that kid on the next jet to the orphanage.” Alfred does not comply; Dick learns Bruce’s secret identity and petitions to be included in some missions. Bruce allows him to come along only when he realizes that Dick is small, nimble, and, in Bruce’s words, “100% expendable.” On the mission, Bruce refuses to allow Dick to call him “dad,” and is only proud of Dick when Dick satisfactorily obeys him. He even flatly denies that Dick is his son at one point, and only acknowledges that Dick is his son because another character suggests that it would be “weirder” if a grown man was with a boy who was not his son.  Even though Bruce is later called to account for this callous attitude towards Dick, and even though he eventually improves, it could be troubling for some viewers. The unkind things Bruce says are there to highlight the self-centeredness and reluctance to be in relationship that have come from his own loss, and they’re often intended to draw laughs from the audience, but for kids who have been orphaned, neglected, misused, and threatened with disrupted placements, the jokes could be very painful.  Most teenagers could be able to deal with what Bruce says, but this film also seems likely to appeal to young kids who might not be easily able to not take Bruce’s unkind words personally. 

In a way, Bruce’s approach to Dick is similar to Gru’s negative approach to his future daughters in the first Despicable Me film – he intends to use his adopted children to accomplish a dangerous task that he can’t accomplish himself, and he does not have true intentions to be a parent. Negative portrayals of the intentions of adoptive parents could be troubling for some young viewers who have been, or who may become, adopted.

Weak Points

Bruce makes Dick an accessory to a crime.


The Lego Batman Movie is funny from the first scene. It’s well-made, engaging, and means well. There are some challenging portrayals of orphans and adoption that could be difficult for some adoptive families – and in particular, which could be confusing or troubling for some younger adopted children – that’s too bad, because outside of these things, this is a delightful film that I thoroughly enjoyed. It has some very positive messages about dealing with loss, and it also portrays the impact of Bruce’s initial negative approach to dealing with loss. However, his treatment of Dick could upset some young viewers. For kids who take cinematic mentions of adoption to heart – particularly younger kids, parents should probably screen it first. Kids and teens 12 and up may be less likely to take these issues to heart; but parents should be present during the film so that they can engage their teens in important conversations afterwards. Overall, for adoptive families, I’d rate this film as good for kids 12 and up; parental guidance particularly important for kids 10-13, and for kids under 9 it might be particularly good for parents to screen it before their kids see it.

Questions for Discussion

Why was Bruce scared of relationships? What was he scared of? How did this fear impact him?

What was Dick hoping would come from being adopted? Was it realistic?

Bruce adopted Dick without realizing he was doing it – how do you think adoptions happen in the real world?

In what ways was Batman a good dad? What things did he have wrong, at first?

What makes a good dad, a good dad?

Dick seemed to feel that he had to change something about himself in order for him to be able to get adopted – how do you feel about that? If you were Dick’s friend, what would you tell him? Do all 
kids deserve a forever home?

How has Bruce dealt with the “pain you feel when you lose someone close to you?” Which were the best things he did? 

Thanks for checking out our review of The Lego Batman Movie. You might also want to check out our reviews of The Lego MovieDespicable MeDespicable Me 2, and Batman Begins – and of course, Check out our book on Amazon to see how to use films to have adoption-friendly family movie nights all year round!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Voting is Open for the 2017 Adoption at the Movies Awards!

Voting is now open for the 2017 Adoption at the Movies Awards. Each year, the readers of Adoption at the Movies celebrate the films that portray adoption in a healthy, helpful light, as well as those films that are useful to therapeutically minded parents. To vote, click here to vote now or go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2017AdoptionAtTheMoviesAwards

Voting is open until 11:59 PM PST on Thursday, February 16, 2017. The Adoption at the Movies Awards winners will be announced here on Tuesday, February 21, 2017.

This year's nominees are:

In the Category of "Film of the Year"

Finding Dory (Pixar Animation Studios / Walt Disney Pictures)

Kung Fu Panda 3 (China Film Co, Dreamworks Animation, Oriental Dreamworks)

Lion (The Weinstein Company, Screen Australia, See-Saw Films, Aquarius Films, Sunstar Entertainment, Narrative Capital)

Moana (Walt Disney Animation Studios / Walt Disney Pictures)

Pete's Dragon (Walt Disney Pictures)

Queen of Katwe (ESPN Films / Walt Disney Pictures / Walt Disney Productions)

In the Category of "Best Animated Feature"

Finding Dory (Pixar Animation Studios / Walt Disney Pictures)

Kung Fu Panda 3 (China Film Co, Dreamworks Animation, Oriental Dreamworks)

Moana (Walt Disney Animation Studios / Walt Disney Pictures)

Trolls (Dreamworks Animation)

In the Category of "Best Depiction of Reunion"

Father Unknown (Kti Eaton, David Quint)

Finding Dory (Pixar Animation Studios / Walt Disney Pictures)

Kung Fu Panda 3 (China Film Co, Dreamworks Animation, Oriental Dreamworks)

Lion (The Weinstein Company, Screen Australia, See-Saw Films, Aquarius Films, Sunstar Entertainment, Narrative Capital)

Moana (Walt Disney Animation Studios / Walt Disney Pictures)

Storks (RatPac-Dune Entertainment, Warner Animation Group, Warner Bros. Animation, Warner Bros. Pictures)

In the Category of "Best Adoptive Family"

Finding Dory (Pixar Animation Studios / Walt Disney Pictures)

Kung Fu Panda 3 (China Film Co, Dreamworks Animation, Oriental Dreamworks)

Lion (The Weinstein Company, Screen Australia, See-Saw Films, Aquarius Films, Sunstar Entertainment, Narrative Capital)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon Movies)

In the Category of "Best Adoptive Parent"

Kung Fu Panda 3 (China Film Co, Dreamworks Animation, Oriental Dreamworks)

Lion (The Weinstein Company, Screen Australia, See-Saw Films, Aquarius Films, Sunstar Entertainment, Narrative Capital)

Moana (Walt Disney Animation Studios / Walt Disney Pictures)

Pete's Dragon (Walt Disney Pictures)

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows (Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon Movies)

Need a refresher on a particular movie? CHECK OUT OUR MOVIE REVIEW DATABASE

Or, ready to Vote?  VOTE NOW!

Don't forget to come back on February 21 to find out which films won!

Want more Adoption at the Movies? Check out our book on Amazon!

A Dog's Purpose Adoption Movie Review

A Dog’s Purpose is a sometimes light-hearted, sometimes sad journey with a gentle soul who has lived several canine lives. When a dog dies, the soul wakes up in another dog. From this perspective we see several different lives of dogs. One dies as a puppy after being picked up by an animal catcher. Another is a police dog. Another is neglected horribly. But the main life the film focuses on is Bailey; Bailey is rescued from a hot car and immediately bonds with the family that has saved him. He becomes best friends with Ethan, the young boy in the family. Bailey grows up with Ethan, and dies shortly after Ethan leaves for college. 


After several reincarnations, Bailey finds Ethan again and manages to communicate to Ethan that – impossible as it may seem – he is Ethan’s childhood dog. As the film ends, Bailey explains that he has figured out what his life purpose is – to live in the moment and to help people to love.

The Adoption Connection

In some sense, Bailey has been adopted into several families.

Ethan’s parents split up, and Ethan deals with the effects and shame of his father’s alcoholism.

Strong Points

Bailey is a loyal friend.

Even though Bailey is neglected in one home, he eventually finds a place where he is loved.


In one scene, Ethan’s dad is drunk and knocks down scuffles with Ethan’s mother. Ethan knocks his dad down and tells him to leave. In another scene, a girl has been kidnapped by her mother’s ex-boyfriend; he brings the girl to a bridge, and she falls into the rapids. These could be difficult scenes for kids who have witnessed or experienced domestic violence.

Several dogs die in this movie; some die of old age, but one dies after being shot by a criminal. This could be hard for kids who are sensitive to issues of loss, death, or violence.

Another student mocks Ethan for having an alcoholic father. Ethan punches him and leaves. That student goes to Ethan’s house at night and throws a lit firecracker into the home. The house burns down, and Ethan and his mother barely escape alive.  
Bailey is neglected in one home; he is chained outside for what seems like years. Kids who have been neglected might find this particularly sad.


A Dog’s Life seems likely to draw families with young children – after all, this is a movie about dogs, and it’s voiced by Josh Gad, who voiced Frozen’s snowman Olaf. However, there are some frightening and sad scenes, some of which could be triggers for kids who have experienced neglect, or for those who have witnessed or experienced violence. It should be OK for kids ages 12 and up with a parent present; parents of younger kids should probably prescreen this one if their kids are sensitive to loss, death, violence or neglect.

Questions for Discussion

What do you think of Bailey’s advice, to not be sad but to just live in the present?

What kept Bailey’s spirits up when he was in the home that didn’t pay attention to him?

What do you think the purpose of life is?

What does it feel like to be home?
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