Review: Hanks’ charm key selling point of ‘Finch’

Tom Hanks in Finch / Apple

Even in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, Tom Hanks’ wit, charm, and charisma are undeniable.

In his latest film “Finch,” Hanks’ only co-stars are CGI-enhanced robots named Dewey and Jeff and an ultra-cute pooch, Goodyear, but the two-time Oscar winner is imminently watchable as he and his surrogate family struggle to live a decade after an extinction-level event renders much of the Earth unlivable because the the atmosphere’s ozone layer has turned to “Swiss cheese.”

With day-time temperatures reaching 150 degrees Fahrenheit and radiation levels soaring, Finch Weinberg (Hanks) wears an environmental-protection suit that resembles the astronaut gear he wore in “Apollo 13” when leaves his bunker, located near St. Louis, to scavenge for food and supplies.

Dying of what the audience can only conclude is radiation poisoning from the film’s setting and the material he reads, Finch constructs a humanoid-like robot, Jeff, to take care of his pup after he passes away. Goodyear, however, neither likes nor trusts Jeff as their adventure begins.

Highly intelligent but lacking in experience and understanding, Jeff, voiced by Caleb Landry Jones, learns by doing and failing in a series of hijinks that range from cute to dangerous. Finch is a good father to the bot, but like most dads his emotions run the gamut from frustration, pride, and anger as Jeff matures.

With a massive storm bearing down on St. Louis, Finch packs his motley crew into a motorhome to escape. They head for San Francisco where Finch’s father, who abandoned his family when Finch was a child, once lived. Conditions there are rumored to be less strident.

Tom Hanks in Finch / Apple

The film is capably directed by Miguel Sapochnick (“Game of Thrones”), but the screenplay by Craig Luck and Ivor Powell feels as if it might have been written in the late 1950s and dusted off for production today.

The movie plays like a big-budgeted episode of “The Twilight Zone” with the requisite twist scrubbed away. It’s a less-mature take on themes explored by Isaac Asimov in his “Robot” series of short stories and novels years ago. One could imagine Pixar considering it for an animated project, but passing on because of its similarity to “Wall-E”.

However, Hanks and Sapochnik make it work. Like a latter-day Jimmy Stewart or Gary Cooper, Hanks remains imminently watchable even when playing against a dog and couple of robots.

Cinematographer Jo Willems may not offer anything new to sci-fi, but his compositions tell the story exceeding well, and there are some beautiful shots, particularly during a touching scene in which Finch and Jeff enjoy a final afternoon in Monument Valley. The climactic scene at sunset when Jeff and Goodyear ultimately make it to San Francisco is another emotion-rich sun-drenched shot.

Though “Finch” breaks no new ground, it is an enjoyable, touching family film. It’s a shame it fell victim to the coronavirus and did not get a theatrical release and perhaps a broader audience that what Apple TV provides.

The film was made to play in theaters, and I can’t help but feel something was lost watching it on a screen that’s 50 inches rather than 75 feet.

(PG-13) 1 hr. 55 min.
Grade: B-

  In Local Theaters

Redeeming Love (watch trailer) / (PG-13) 2 hr. 14 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Towne

The King’s Daughter (watch trailer) / (PG) 1 hr. 37 min. / AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback

The Tiger Rising (watch trailer) / (PG) 1 hr. 42 min. / Malco Razorback, Malco Pinnacle

Classic Corner – Fathom Events brings classics back to the theater

As directer/screenwriter/podcaster/film fan Kevin Smith might say, Fathom Event’s is doing “the Lord’s work” by bringing classic movies to the big screen.

While I have no doubt watched more movies on television than on the big screen, there is no better way to enjoy a movie than in the theater.

From the picture, to the sound, to the communal aspect, to the darkness, attending a movie in a theater remains an escapist treat to me, while watching one on TV is often just background noise to real life.

While I dote on seeing new releases as quickly as my schedule allows, I’ve come to truly appreciate Fathom Events’ program in conjunction with Malco Theaters that brings classic movies back into theaters where they can once again be enjoyed as they were made to be seen on the big screen.

While I’ve usually seen each of the films Fathom Events presents and own many of them on physical media, I thrill at the opportunity to watch many of them in a theater for the first time or again.

One of my movie-going highlights of last year and my life was getting to watch the 1941 version of “The Wolf-Man” on the big screen the day before Halloween, which happens to be my birthday.

I won’t argue that “The Wolf-Man” is a truly great movie, but it has been a favorite of mine since childhood, and while I had daydreamed of seeing it on the big screen as a kid, I never thought it would happen.

Here is a list of the the films Fathom Events will present on the big screen this year as part of its Turner Classic Movies Big Screen Classics Series:

Lady Sings the Blues 50th Anniversary — Feb. 20 and 23

The Quiet Man 70th Anniversary — March 13 and 17

Singing’ in the Rain 70th Anniversary — April 10 and 13

Smokey and the Bandit 45th Anniversary — May 29, June 1 and 2

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? 60th Anniversary — June 12 and 15

Cabaret 50th Anniversary — July 17 and 20

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan 40th Anniversary — Sept. 4,5 and 8

Poltergeist 40th Anniversary — Sept. 25, 26 and 28

In the Heat of the Night 55th Anniversary — Oct. 16 and 19

To Kill a Mockingbird 60th Anniversary — Nov. 13 and 16

It’s a Wonderful Life (Celebrating 75 Years) — Sept. 18 and 21