Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Daddy's Home 2 Adoption Movie Review

Dusty and Brad have worked to successfully become “co-dads” after Brad married Sara and became stepfather to Dusty’s two children Dylan and Megan. Brad has demonstrated a compassionate approach to parenting that Dusty has come to accept and respect, and Dusty has accepted Brad as part of his family. Now, Brad and Sara have become parents to Griffy, and Dusty has married Karen, become stepfather to Adrianna. When Megan expresses that she hates having to have two different Christmases, Dusty and Brad agree to have one big celebration together as a family. It gets even bigger when Brad’s father Don and Dusty’s often-absent father Kurt both join the festivities. Dusty’s macho father can’t believe that Dusty and Brad actually are able to successfully share parenting duties, and he tries to drive a wedge between them. Brad’s father is hiding a secret, and Adrianna’s musclebound father brings an element of dangerous unpredictability when he shows up, too. Can these several dads learn to work together for the good of their kids?

*Spoilers ahead the rest of the way*






The Adoption Connection

Although there is no direct mention of adoption, the concept of blended families and shared parenting is relevant to many families, including adoptive and foster families. Brad and Dusty have built a strong relationship, even though their start was rocky, and even though they don’t always get along very well.


Strong Points

Dusty and Brad initially say that they don’t harbor any hard feelings towards each other, and they present as having a very strong relationship. The truth that comes out is, they do have some grudges against each other – but the film doesn’t end with that realization. They both love the children that they’re parenting, and they view each other as family. The hurt feelings that they have towards each other are true, but their relationship doesn’t end because of those feelings, and in fact, those feelings aren’t the primary defining factor of their relationship – they’re just part of the story. Brad and Dusty show that adults co-parenting the same children can be a team – and be a family – even in spite of differences in lifestyle and differences in approaches to parenting. This film could present a surprisingly helpful example for what positive relationships could look like between adoptive and birth families, as well.

Dusty is learning to express his emotions. Although his father was not nurturing, Dusty is learning to tell his kids that he loves them.


Challenges

Brad and Dusty do try to hurt each other. Dusty’s father Kurt seems to be trying to upset the balance that Brad and Dusty have worked to form.

When Adrianna’s dad shows up, he refers to himself as her “one true real dad,” which seems to be intended to belittle the role that Dusty is taking in her life.


Recommendations

I wouldn’t recommend Daddy’s home to kids, and I don’t think it’s intended as a family film, but it seems like it could be a good choice for parents. As you watch it, consider how adoption or fostering is similar to a blended family. What conflicted loyalties might your children be feeling? How can you acknowledge and honor the other connections in their lives?


Questions for Discussion

What makes Brad’s and Dusty’s relationship work?

Can you maintain a relationship with someone even if you have some mixed feelings towards them? What helps that happen?

To what extent could you incorporate your children’s birth family into your family’s life?


Friday, November 10, 2017

Thor: Ragnarok Adoption Movie Review

Thor’s home is threatened by the fire demon Surtur who promises to bring a time of destruction; meanwhile, the universe is threatened by the release of Hela, a long-imprisoned goddess intent on ruling all worlds. Thor and his trickster brother Loki form a tentative alliance to work against Hela and save their home world.

*SPOILERS AHEAD THE REST OF THE WAY*


The Adoption Connection

Loki is the adopted son of Odin, Thor’s father; Thor and Loki are adoptive brothers, and their relationship is often contentious. When Thor returns home, he finds that Odin is missing, and Loki has fooled his father’s subjects by disguising himself as Odin and convincing his subjects that Loki died nobly.

Odin reveals that he is dying, and his death will cause the release of his daughter Hela. Loki and Thor had not previously known that they had a sister; Hela was banished from her home and written out of her homeland’s history because of her ambitions of dominating others.

In order to save his people, Thor must ultimately choose to allow the destruction of his home. He realizes that the people are what defines his home, rather than the location.

Bruce Banner is locked into the “Hulk” mode – in a way, his anger keeps him safe, but he has not been able to return to normal, and it takes hearing the voice of a loving friend to return to his normal self.


Strong Points

Thor inherits his father’s throne, and it appears that he will rule with wisdom and bravery.

In spite of the contentiousness of their relationship, Thor and Loki do work together, and it seems likely that their fraternal relationship will continue.


Challenges

Loki and Thor have a contentious relationship. Each has desired the throne. Now they must work together to fight against a sister that they never knew they had. Loki and Thor betray each other at various points of their journey.

Thor loses an eye.

Odin dies, which could be hard for viewers who have lost a parent.  

After Odin dies, Thor and Loki question the continuation of their brotherly bond. They decide to go away from each other, in a scene that could be heartbreaking for adoptive families. They express that “[our father] brought us together; it is fitting his death sets us apart… it’s probably for the best if we never see each other.”

Hela is the goddess of death, and she slaughters many.

Odin tried to erase his daughter’s name from the history of his world. It would have been healthier to acknowledge the truth and learn from it. Another character speaks a strong indictment against secrecy, “It hurts being told you’re one thing and learning it’s all a fiction.”

Thor’s home world does end in fire.


Recommendations

Thor: Ragnarok is a fun and engaging film, but it is probably pushed out of bounds for most young viewers touched by adoption by the violence, parental loss, home loss, and the discussion in which 
Thor and Loki appear to decide that their relationship should end now that their father has died. This one should be OK for most teens and adults, although parents should still check in with their teens about the conversation between Thor and Loki.


Questions for Discussion

Why did Odin keep Hela a secret from Thor and Loki? What would have been different had he told his sons about her?

After Odin dies, why are Loki and Thor still brothers?

What makes someone a part of your family?

What makes a place your home?


Monday, October 30, 2017

Happy Halloween! Hotel Transylvania 2 Adoption Movie Review

The unlikely couple of Mavis, a vampire, and Johnny, a goofy human, have married and are now expecting a baby. They live together with Mavis’ family in the hotel run by her father, Dracula. Dracula is excited about the thought of a new vampire being born into the family. Mavis cautions her father that, since Johnny is a human, their baby might not be a vampire. Dracula ignores these concerns, certain that his grandchild will be a vampire like he is.

When Dennis is born, Dracula is upset that he does not show immediate signs of being a vampire, and is terrified that his own father, the human-hating Vlad, will be dangerously angered. As Dennis continues to grow into toddlerhood, he still seems decidedly non-vampire. Dracula begins to feel tense as Dennis approaches his fifth birthday, because that’s the latest he might be revealed as a vampire.


The Adoption Connection

This is a movie about genetics. Mavis and Johnny are about to have a child, and Mavis’ family wants the child to take after them. Johnny’s family distrusts the people that Mavis considers family, and implies that it would be better for Dennis to be around “normal” people.  Dracula takes Dennis on a secret trip in an attempt to turn him into a vampire.

Vlad seems likely to reject Dennis because Dennis is not genetically similar enough to Vlad. 

Adoptive families who have experienced negative reactions to the adoption by members of their extended family might resonate.

Characters wonder how Dennis will be accepted in the monster culture if he himself isn’t a monster. 

Mavis and Johnny consider moving to be near people “more like” Dennis.


Strong Points

Dracula obviously loves his daughter Mavis, and reminisces about her as a young girl. She’s still his little girl in his eyes. He’s also come to accept Johnny as part of his family, and shows that he loves Dennis as well.

One character defends Dennis, telling another character “You can’t just make somebody something they’re not.”

Mavis and Johnny have a strong relationship. They express their love to each other as well as their need for attention from each other. One affirms, “As long as we’re all together, we’ll be happy anywhere.”
Insensitivity gets corrected. One character asks, “Can we stop using the world “normal?” Didn’t expect this one to have implications for cultural sensitivity, did you?

A family member sticks up for Dennis, telling another, “If you can’t give him the love he deserves because he’s half-human, then you’re the fool.”

There are a lot of laughs in this one.


Challenges

Vlad hates humans. Dracula jokes that, instead of embracing Johnny into the family, Vlad (who Dracula describes as “old school”) simply “would have eaten him.”

** SPOILER ALERT – After Dracula tries to make Dennis into a vampire, Dennis ultimately shows himself to be one. I think the movie might have had a better message if Dennis wasn’t a vampire but Dracula came to love him anyway. The way the film is, there’s still some pressure on the child to live up to his family’s cultural/genetic expectations, and that might be hard for some kids to see. It’s almost like the film is saying “You can’t make somebody something they’re not… but they might end up being what you hope for anyway.” And although that’s true, it feels like it kind of undercuts the message of true acceptance. What’s the difference between acceptance of who your (grand)kid is and a disappointed tolerance of who they are? I feel like this film might have confused one for the other. END SPOILER ***
There are some frightening scenes where children are in peril. One is tied into Dracula’s determination for Dennis to be revealed as a vampire – he throws Dennis off a high tower, anticipating that Dennis will fly. He waits until almost the last minute to rescue him. Another character tells Dracula, “I can’t not report child endangerment.” Mavis responds by telling her father “I don’t think he’s safe around you,” and challenging him that, although he lets humans sleep in his hotel, “I don’t think you’ve let them into your heart.” This scene could be rough for kids who’ve been hurt by a parent or caregiver, but it also shows the abuser getting reprimanded by a fiercely loving mom.

Dennis wonders if his family’s potential move is his own fault.


Recommendations

This is a good one. There are some scary scenes, and I do have one reservation that I explained in the spoiler above, this is a movie that depicts parental love in the face of an extended family failing to accept a child who is genetically different from them. In the long run, everything turns out OK. This one will be scary for very young kids who might also be triggered by some scenes of kids being endangered by family members, but kids ages 8 and up should be able to enjoy it, and parental “debriefing” could help make sure that any potential triggers are processed.


Questions for Discussion

Whose fault was it that Vlad was unhappy?

How do you know that you belong in a particular family?


If you could turn into any animal, what would you choose?

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Five Years!

It's hard to believe, but Adoption at the Movies has been going strong for five years. In our first five years, we've covered over 300 movies and had visitors from over 100 countries and every US State. Thanks so much for being a part of Adoption at the Movies. Here's to many more years of film, fun, and family conversations!

What have been your favorite movies over the last five years? We'd love to hear!

The Mountain Between Us Adoption Movie Review

When their chartered plane crashes in a remote mountain, strangers (and lone survivors) Ben and Alex must navigate an unfamiliar wilderness to find their way back to civilization.

** SPOILERS AHEAD THE REST OF THE WAY **



The Adoption Connection

There is no mention of adoption in the film. Alex and Ben inherit the dog of their deceased pilot, and he does become an integral member of their party. Alex and Ben form a bond with each other through their shared adversity.



Strong Points

Ben and Alex have great strength. Each forgives the other for words said in anger.

Both characters admit when they are scared. Ben acknowledges that they might not survive, and in spite of this admission, he recognizes that he and Alex have a choice whether to keep trying. 



Challenges

Some frightening scenes (a plane crash and a cougar attack) and a sex scene push this film out of bounds for many younger viewers.

Alex and Ben say some hurtful things to each other.


Recommendations

The Mountain Between Us was enjoyable for me. I wouldn’t recommend it for kids, and it seems more likely to appeal to adults rather than to teens. As you watch it, think about the ways that relationships form through traumatic situations.


Questions for Discussion

What keeps Alex and Ben bonded together once their traumatic circumstances have ended?

How did you become friends with the person who is closest to you?

What traumatic incidents have your kids experienced? What do they need from you to help process those?



Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Dayveon Adoption Movie Review

Since his brother was killed in 2014, young teenager Dayveon has lived with his sister and her boyfriend. He is loved, but he is longing to belong and to make sense of his brother’s death. The only belonging he has from his brother is his brother’s loaded handgun. Dayveon is jumped into a street gang, and joins them in robberies. He is uncomfortable with the crimes in which he has participated. In one crime, he and one other gang member rob a poker game, and one of the victims is Dayveon’s sister’s boyfriend. Later, the boyfriend confronts Dayveon, affirms that he loves him, and challenges Dayveon’s involvement in the gang. It’s uncertain what Dayveon will choose to do.



The Adoption Connection

Dayveon’s parents are never mentioned. He lives with his sister and her boyfriend. He has one close friend, and has also been jumped into a gang.



Strong Points

Even though Dayveon has entered into a criminal life – and participated in a robbery against him – his sister’s boyfriend makes strong efforts to invest in Dayveon’s life.



Challenges

Language, gang involvement, and violence will push this movie out of the comfort zone for many viewers.


Recommendations

Dayveon is an interesting study of the life of a fictional but very realistic Arkansan teenager. I wouldn’t recommend this for kids, but parents could find it meaningful to notice how the love of a parent could have been formational in Dayveon’s life.











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