Twice now, I have seen this movie in particularly trying circumstances. It’s the one movie we saw in the theatre in the week’s leave home Graham had during his tour in Iraq, and I watched it in the NICU when I was there with Irene. The first time, it was because it was a movie we both had an interest in seeing that happened to be in the theatres while he was home from Iraq. The second time, it was a deliberate choice because of the movie’s message of family and the importance of looking to the future. And, to a lesser extent, because it was a movie I could probably watch without the nurses giving me weird looks again.
It is the story of young Lewis (Daniel Hansen, then Jordan Fry when Hansen’s voice changed), who was left on the doorstep of an orphanage when he was a baby. He is an extremely bright child, brith enough to intimidate every prospective parent he encounters, to the regret of orphanage administrator Mildred (Angela Bassett), who wants very much to find a home for him. Also to find a home for his despairing roommate, Michael “Goob” Yagoobian (Matthew Josten). Eventually, Lewis becomes obsessed with finding his biological mother, and he decides that the obvious solution is a memory-searching device. He works on it to the neglect of everything else and drives Goob nuts in the process. He is planning to present it at the science fair, when everything goes wrong. And then, a strange kid appears and claims to be from the future.
Keep moving forward is not a bad motto as such things go. Certainly moving forward is better for Lewis than obsessing about the past. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s wrong for Lewis to want to know who his biological mother was. Yes, he has a right to choose his relationship with his family; my firstborn has chosen not to, and that’s her right. It’s true that there is more to life than who his mother is—and he shows no interest at all in who his father is, I’d note—and that his fixation on that one thing is holding him back. And the family he might someday have is also a valid one. There’s nothing, however, to prevent having both.
Yeah, I know. I’m touchy on the subject, because I’m a birth mother. I feel a rant shaping up for my Wednesday piece one of these days about how adoption is treated in movies. And it’s true that director Stephen J. Anderson was passionate about the opportunity to make this movie because he was himself adopted. We all handle these issues differently, and he is no more wrong in his feelings than my daughter or I. It’s still something that lingers as I watch this.
That aside, it’s a silly and entertaining little film. I don’t have as much interest in joining the Robinson family as Lewis does, but I think I have a low wackiness tolerance. Spending an hour and a half with these people is fine; spending a lifetime with them sounds wearying. I do like the “someone for everyone” message. It is a little perplexing to me that Mildred attempts to connect Lewis with the athlete; it’s quite clear that that’s not a family to which Lewis would belong, even without the guy’s deathly peanut allergy. But that doesn’t matter; what matters is that, in the end, there are families for everyone.
There are lots of fun little moments to the movie, including ones which come and go so quickly you might not notice them. Okay, there’s the observation that Cornelius Robinson “looks like Tom Selleck,” who ends up providing the voice for him. That doesn’t take a lot of seeking out. On the other hand, you could blink and miss the fact that what is obviously Tomorrowland is now listed as Todayland. Lots of little things like that, not to mention the recurring observation that the plans of Bowler Hat Guy (Stephen J. Anderson) do not seem to be thought out.
This is not one of the movies that makes people think about how great Disney can be. But it’s a worthwhile movie with wit and heart. There’s something to be said for those, and they’re not really talked about as much. Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t a movie I’m going to bring up regularly. But when it comes up, I have more good to say about it than bad, by a lot. And I do think it should come up more often.