On a sepia-toned rainy night a woman, obscured by shadow and hood and fearful of being seen, hugs her bundled infant one last time and leaves him on the doorstep of the Sixth Street Orphanage. Twelve years later, Lewis has sat through 124 adoption interviews, none of which resulted in his adoption. He almost gives up hope. Through the magic of Disney, Lewis travels twenty years into the future to meet the loving family that will eventually be his. He returns to his regular life with his hope restored. The movie ends as Lewis is adopted by his new, lovably weird parents.
Lewis shares an orphanage room with Mike, and both boys sit through interviews with prospective adoptive parents. Scenes from several of Lewis’ interviews show him optimistically sharing his inventions with prospective adoptive parents. None of them adopt him, and eventually Lewis loses his optimism.
One scene is loaded with adoption content. Lewis is sad after an unsuccessful interview. Mildred follows him and affirms that the family’s choice is not Lewis’ fault. Lewis responds that he’s almost 13, and that being a teenager makes being adopted less likely. He feels as though no one wants him – not even his birth mother. Mildred suggests that his birth mother loved him, and may have wanted to keep him, but couldn’t. Lewis latches on to this, and says, “My real mother is the only person who ever wanted me.” His desire to belong somewhere fuels his desire to find her, and his desire find her drives the movie. Lewis is eventually adopted.
Mildred, the orphanage director, is loving and positive. This is rare in movie portrayals of orphanage directors! Mildred smiles lovingly at Lewis when she first seems him, as an infant on her doorstep. Twelve years and 124 adoption interviews later, Mildred still believes in Lewis and shows her belief in him. Before an interview she tells him, “Go show them how special you are.”
The movie highlights the benefit of persistence. Lewis is adopted, even after 124 unsuccessful adoption interviews. One of his inventions took over 900 tries, but he finally got it right. His adoptive family celebrates failures for the lessons learned, and his own motto is “Keep Moving Forward.”
Lewis declares that he is done with adoption interviews. “I won’t be rejected anymore!” After meeting his future family, Lewis travels to the past and is given the opportunity to meet his birth mother. Although he’s wanted to meet her for a long time he chooses not to, saying that he already has a family. This scene makes sense in the movie as a whole but it could be confusing to kids.
The theme of the movie is, “Keep Moving Forward.” Lewis wants to find his birth mother so that he can he belong somewhere. Once he learns that he will have a family in the future, he decides he does not need to revisit the past. In that sense, the scene is a positive one. Lewis does not need to undo his past because he comes to believe that his future will be good. The scene is about embracing the future. It isn’t saying anything about open or closed adoptions. Lewis’ choice is all about his faith that he’ll eventually have a family – and that because of that, he doesn’t have to change history. It’s not about whether or not he wants a relationship with his birth mother. Adoptees can move into the future and still have openness with their birth family members – in fact, in many cases, openness facilitates adoptees being able to embrace their present life.
Mike grows up to become the villain. Lewis kept Mike up late one night, so he fell asleep in a baseball game, made an error, was beaten up, and spent the next twenty years alone, bitter, and blaming Lewis for his unhappiness. Mike tries to ruin Lewis’ life, and expresses his belief that people should hold on to past pains. This parallel’s Lewis’ dilemma. Do you cling to the pain in your past, or move on into the future? Lewis scolds Mike, “I’m sorry your life was bad, but don’t blame me. You messed it up yourself. You just focused on the bad stuff when all you had to do was let go of the past and keep moving forward.” Lewis’ answer is positive, but a bit too simple. A better answer is, “Don’t cling to your pain, but don’t ignore it. Address it so that you can keep moving forward.”
In one scene, Lewis travels 20-ish years into the future. His future family invites him to stay, but when they learn who he is they tell him he must go back. He is heartbroken. He quickly recovers once he understands that everything will work out OK. This scene could be troubling for kids who have experienced adoption disruptions.
Mildred reminds Lewis to be pleasant and punctual. Mike suggests that Lewis won’t be adopted because of his strange hobby. After one disastrous interview where his invention malfunctions, Lewis hears the prospective adoptive parent say, “That boy is definitely not right for us.” Mike loses the baseball game and scares away prospective adopters with his fierce bitterness. Then history changes. Mike makes the play in his baseball game. He is happy and seems to get adopted. Lewis’ family notices him because of his successful invention. A child could mistakenly assume that the message is, “successful kids get adopted.”
Upon first meeting Lewis, his future adoptive father says, “you don’t look like a Lewis.” Name changes often happen in adoption, but here it feels like the father is saying, “I like you, but your name doesn’t fit.”
A scene where Lewis is kidnapped and bound could be traumatic for some children. In another brief scene, members of Lewis’ future family fall victim to mind-control and try to attack him.
There’s a lot to like about Meet the Robinsons. It’s very positive. There are some areas which could be troubling or at least confusing, so do make sure you know they’re coming and be ready to talk through them with your kids. This movie should be good viewing for the 6-12 age group.
Questions for Discussion after the movie
When have you kept working on something when you wanted to give up? How did it turn out?
When has it been hard to keep hoping for something?
Which people were the kindest to you, before you came to live with me?
What’s a mistake you’ve made that you’ve learned from? Tell me how you Kept Moving Forward!
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