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.


*SPOILERS AHEAD THE REST OF THE WAY*

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.


Challenges

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.


Recommendations

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

Be warned… SPOILERS ALL THE WAY THROUGH THIS 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.

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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!
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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.”


Challenges

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.


Recommendations

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. 


 **SPOILERS AHEAD THE REST OF THE WAY**

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.


Challenges

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.


Recommendations

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?

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Mickey's Big Celebration

On a Saturday morning, in theaters across the country, young children and their parents met up with Mickey Mouse and a bunch of his Disney Junior friends for Mickey’s Big Celebration, a special engagement put on by Fathom Events. Kids in the audience were invited to get up, dance, and sing along with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Doc McStuffins, and the PJ Masks. The show also featured some simple games for kids to play. The event centered around the introduction of Mickey and the Roadster Racers, a new series about Mickey and his friends and their sports cars. It was interesting to see a theatrical presentation try to be interactive, but the kids in the theater I attended didn’t sing along too loudly. Mickey and the Roadster Racers seems like a harmless Saturday morning cartoon that my friends might have watched in Kindergarten, but there’s nothing too deep. It is gratifying to see the formerly villainous Pete be turned into a friend by Mickey’s quick, forgiving nature.


Mickey and the Roadster Racers might appeal to kids ages 2-6 or so, but it didn't strike me as particularly special. What are some of your kids' favorite shows? 

Fathom Events are generally worth checking out; find more here

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Published! Adoption at the Movies is available on Amazon!

Hey everyone! Adoption at the Movies is now a published book! Get your copy here!

Here's what some leading voices are saying:

Adoption at the Movies does two huge favors for adoptive parents. First, it reveals the whys and hows of having tough conversations with our kids. Second, through previews it guides us through how to best use films as conversation starters that can foster intimacy and trust, while alerting us to potential hazards. This way parents can make good decisions about what to see and what to wait on. I wish I'd had this guide from Day 1 as an adoptive parent to my children. (Lori Holden of LavenderLuz.com, author of The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption.)

Adoption at the Movies takes your cinema entertainment and transforms it into a powerful tool to help your adoptive child to thrive in life. (Darren Fink, Co-Founder, Transfiguring Adoption)

This book is comprehensive and thoughtful, a true resource for parents who wish to use films as a springboard for positive and helpful dialogue about adoption with their children. Addison has done the hard work for us, analyzing the most applicable stories of our day and guiding us through the potential of each film in helping our adopted children process their own stories. (Christina Matanick, creator of ReMoved film)

Movies have that magical ability to transport us to a different place and see things in new ways. They can be a useful, and sometimes less painful, vehicle for gaining insight into important life issues. With Addison Cooper's guidance, adoptive families can easily choose films to help them initiate important conversations in a non-threatening manner. Building on his popular Adoption at the Movies blog, Cooper's new book (of the same name) organizes 63 movies into four main categories. Alphabetical, age, and topic indexes add to the book's usability. Adoptive families and professionals who work with them will find this to be a welcome resource. (Linda May Grobman, MSW, LSW, ACSW, Publisher/Editor of The New Social Worker Magazine)

Open communication is vital to the well-being of any family, but parents through adoption may struggle to introduce the subject. Adoption at the Movies can help parents get past this stumbling block. When you watch a film with an adoption theme, the topic is already on the table, er, screen, so the conversation can unfold naturally. Cooper's clear-eyed assessments of dozens of films, including excellent discussion questions, should lead to many enjoyable evenings-and many more hours of healthy conversation-in any family formed through adoption. (Eve Gilman, editor of Adoptive Families magazine)

Adoption at the Movies is a well-researched and accessible resource for all adoptive families who watch films together. Addison Cooper shows how many films aimed at children are essentially about absent or neglectful caregivers, loss and the search for belonging and why these themes may trigger difficult feelings in adopted children. His book gives parents the tools not only to make informed decisions and to prepare before watching a film but it suggests ways in which each film can be used as a starting point for a significant conversation. It is great to read something that not only forewarns but forearms too and which encourages families to explore themes and difficulties together and to use films as a resource. The book is easy to use, packed with popular films and appropriate to a wide age range. I wish I'd read it at the start of our journey as an adoptive family but I'll certainly be using it now. (Sally Donovan, author of No Matter What)


Adoption at the Movies is a great resource for any parent, educator or mentor who works with youth; and it's a comprehensive, must-have resource for foster and adoptive parents.
The author provides discussion topics and activities, which will help make the most out of any family movie night.
(Yasmin Mistry Director, Foster Care Film & Community Engagement Project (FCFCEP))

Get your copy here!

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