Tom Hanks was the first famous person that got Covid. As movie studios struggle to come up with new films and when to release them, he’s the actor I’ve seen the most in movies since this pandemic (he was in Greyhound, Borat, and News of the World last year).
The title of this -- Finch -- made me think of a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers I remember as a kid named Mark Fidrych. He was a sensation for a few years and then disappeared.
As I watched Hanks in this post-apocalyptic world with a robot and a dog, I thought about a bizarre movie I saw around that same Fidrych was playing baseball in the mid-70s -- A Boy and His Dog (Don Johnson). Another movie I thought about was Chappie (nobody remembers that, do they?). That’s a film that I liked more than most critics.
Since this movie was so uninteresting, I continued to think of other things it reminded me of. One of those was an interview Hanks did on Letterman. The movie Turner & Hooch (1989) had flopped and Hanks said, “Dave, what I found out is...if you do a movie about a dog, you don’t kill the dog at the end. People just don’t like that.”
As the audience laughed he continued, “Yeah, riddling the dog with bullets...not our best idea.”
Would the dog in Finch see the same fate?
Probably not, because Hanks’ character Finch has created a robot with AI (voiced by Caleb Landry Jones). Its sole purpose is to protect him and the dog. Of course, the dog never warms up to the weird way the robot walks and talks, even if it is willing to play fetch with him or try to mimic the canine’s bark. The audience will never warm up to him, because he’s like the Jar Jar Binks of androids.
A solar flare caused the world’s destruction, and Finch is suffering from radiation poisoning. Like so many apocalyptic movies we’ve seen in the last few years, the biggest fear is other humans who have survived. They’re also scavenging for food and might kill you. In these types of stories, I always think humans would welcome running into others that are still alive, not just going all Lord of the Flies and wanting to bully and kill everyone in their path. But maybe that’s my wishful thinking, as I sit here stuffed from the Taco Bell I just ate.
Early on, you cringe at all the dad jokes Finch throws at the robot. You hope they get funnier as the film goes on (they don’t). You also start to wonder why Hanks would do this project. It’s basically another version of Cast Away, with a robot replacing a volleyball.
When we watch Finch trying to teach the robot to walk, and the montage that follows with it falling down, walking into walls, dancing, running quickly in and out of the picture...unless you’re a 10-year-old, you won’t find it the least bit amusing.
The movie becomes a Book of Eli (a very underrated Denzel film), as Finch tries to take his RV to San Francisco. That made me think -- why not play the song San Francisco by Scott McKenzie (“if you’re going to San Francisco…”). Maybe the fact that that was used in ForrestGump made them frown from using it. Instead they went with American Pie. Well, that song has been used in too many films (most recently Black Widow). And let us not forget, Don McLean was involved in some domestic violence incidents with his wife. Now the 75-year-old is dating a 27-year-old, so...is this the guy we want to make money from the use of his classic song? How about we retire it already? I’m not big into cancel culture, unless it involves people like Roman Polanski, Mel Gibson, Kevin Spacey, and the overused songs of Mr. McLean. But I digest (this Taco Bell is doing a number on me).
Director Miguel Sapochnik has worked mainly in television (House, True Detective, and Game ofThrones). Perhaps he thought scenes showing the robot trying to come up with a name for himself (wanting Albert Einstein, and other already taken famous names), was what he thought constitutes humor. It merely had my wife and I rolling our eyes and making fun of the movie like we were Beavis and Butthead making fun of MTV videos.
Perhaps I was expecting too much from the usually reliable Tom Hanks. After all, he wrote, directed, and starred in one of the worst movies of 2011 -- Larry Crowne. Perhaps his judgement isn’t the best.
I’ll give the film 1 ½ stars out of 5, but only because it was smart enough to use two of the best songs in music history: the Talking Heads “Road to Nowhere” and the Louis Prima classic “Sing Sing Sing (with a swing).”