There is no excuse for a sci-fi / drama road trip to be so uninteresting and uninteresting.
Of Rob Hunter Published November 15, 2021
I know what you are thinking. A film starring Tom Hanks like a man with a dog? Fool you once, yadda yadda yadda, but you won’t watch another movie that ends with Hanks crying over the overturned dog. I get it, and you won’t have any confirmation here regarding the end of finch and whether the dog bites him or not, but I can guarantee you this is not the Turner & Hooch (1989) Sequel you fear. Instead, it is something surprisingly even less inspired.
A decade after a solar flare left Earth’s inhabitants, human and otherwise, dead or dying under UV rays, a survivor clings to life by gathering supplies and building a robot. Finch Weinberg (Hanks) is an engineer, and while catastrophic weather is slowly killing him, it’s fueling the pain to complete the project. The only thing Finch loves is his dog, Goodyear, and he knows the little dog has no chance once the radiation sickness coursing through his body eventually kills him. His solution is to build an advanced robot, a creation capable of learning not only the laws of robotics – it cannot harm or let harm come to humans, it cannot harm or let harm come to Goodyear – but also learn how to survive in a post-apocalyptic world.
With a deadly storm approaching St. Louis, Finch, Goodyear, a simplistic four-wheeled robot named Dewey and Jeff – the new humanoid robot picks its name after Finch vetoes Chappie – board a heavily modified camper and they head west to San Francisco. If you’ve seen a movie, you know exactly where this is all going. (And I don’t just mean California.)
finch is a sci-fi / drama film designed to pull heartstrings, but while viewer mileage will vary many will find their eyes as dry as the sun-baked landscapes that Finch and his friends are walking through. Part of that comes from predictability, sure, but the film also suffers from a lack of real interaction and humanity. Sure, that isolation is a big part of his intent, but as much as Hanks is his efforts to thrill against a dog, remote-controlled cart, and CG-draped mo-cap artist can’t garner an emotional response.
Director Miguel Sapochnik and writers Craig luck Other Ivor Powell create an all-too-recognizable world here with abandoned city streets, menacing CG clouds, and predictable obstacles. All post-apocalyptic films face the same challenges, but those that stand out from the thirsty, radiant pack find an angle, voice, or some other aspect that deserves them attention and endurance. A boy and his dog (1975) is a cult classic thanks to the script, casting and ending. The road warrior (1981, alias An Australian boy and his dog) thrills with stunts and show. finch wants you to bond with a childlike robot voiced by Caleb Landry Jones while a sad Tom Hanks greets his dog. There is nothing else.
The film sometimes tries to pick up the pace: soon, a storm is chasing us! soon, a car is chasing us! – but both the characters and the story stand still. From about thirty minutes when you imagine how you think the film will end, to over an hour later when finch ends exactly as you imagined, it’s never anything more than a good little movie that you will probably never watch again.
Of course, the highlight of most Tom Hanks movies is Tom Hanks, and that trend continues here. Even if he fails to capture the magic of his performance in Shipwrecked (2000), though not for lack of trying, is a real bargain as an actor. You feel her despair as clearly as her little joys. Playing fetch with Goodyear is sweet and sad in its implications, the anger he feels at himself after making a costly mistake is palpable and tense, and you can’t help but appreciate the thrust behind his actions. There are few things as noble as a human being acting in the best interest of a species beyond himself, but hanging the entire movie on something so simple and one-note sees all that empty space take on a great weight that even Hanks struggles. to bring.
finch hits some inevitably emotional beats for its own design, but its achievements still pale next to those like Hanks’ Turner & Hooch. Hell, too K-9 (1989) finds a better and more committed balance between character, history and canine pimping, and this is played by Jim Belushi! (I make fun of Mr. Belushi, and I have to insist that you go see 1987’s Real man immediately to see it comically shine.) As a streaming diversion finch it’s a little too long, a little more torturous, and not all that memorable, but fans of Hanks’ immense talents won’t leave empty-handed. Is that reason enough to jump into an RV with this motley crew? Only you can answer for yourself.
Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird considering he’s so damn young. He is our lead film critic and associate editor and lists “Broadcast News” as his favorite movie of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.