[Screen It]


(2021) (Tom Hanks, Caleb Landry Jones) (PG-13)

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Sci-Fi: A post-apocalyptic survivor sets off for San Francisco with his dog and the robot he's created to care for the canine should he not make it.

In the near future, Finch Weinberg (TOM HANKS) is a robotics engineer who's managed to survive a solar flare that's wiped out most life on Earth from radiation and extreme temperatures. When out scavenging for supplies, his only companions are a small rover robot named Dewey and a dog named Goodyear. Never much liking the company of other people, he's seemingly okay not being around others, but the constant exposure to that radiation has left him increasingly sick.

Accordingly, he's created a learning robot as his assistant to care for Goodyear when he's gone, and Finch learns that teaching the robot -- that eventually takes the name of Jeff (motion capture by and voice of CALEB LANDRY JONES) -- is like dealing with a child, albeit a towering one with incredible strength. With a forty-day storm headed their way that will kill all of them, Finch sets off from their St. Louis base with his companions, headed for San Francisco.

As they proceed and face various perils along the way, Finch's health deteriorates, all as he watches Jeff become ever more human-like.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10

It's been said that if you die in your house and no one comes to remove your body, your pet cat will sooner than later start eating you, beginning with your face of all things, whereas they say your dog will remain by your remains, presumably hoping you wake up at some point.

Maybe that's why more canines than felines show up in movies where the setting is in a post-apocalyptic world, just so we don't have to watch little furballs chowing down on people. Then again, maybe it's the whole "man's best friend" angle that allows for a protagonist to still have a companion and "someone" to converse with to pass the time until -- oh, I don't know -- the kitty decides it's dinner time.

I'll admit my recall of everything related to movies has faded as I near my sixties, but I can't say I remember any cat companions in such films. But for dogs? Well, there were memorable ones in PA films such as "I Am Legend," "The Stand," "The Road Warrior," and maybe the first of the batch, 1975's "A Boy and His Dog."

As we begin "Finch," it appears this film from Miguel Sapochnik -- working from a script by Craig Luck and Ivor Powell -- will be joining the list. In it, Tom Hanks plays the title character who's living in a literal, sunbaked world where he's the only human to be found in greater St. Louis which is, as far as we can tell, completely abandoned.

Outside the city looks like the setting of "Lawrence of Arabia," and thus Finch -- a robotics engineer -- lives in his former company's headquarters that's provided him protection from the outside radiation and extreme heat, what with the atmosphere now having the consistency and life-protecting envelope of Swiss cheese.

Beyond a little rover robot, Finch's companion is Goodyear, a pooch he adopted in a scenario that's explained in a flashback that shows up later in the film. But with him suffering from radiation exposure and coughing up blood, Finch has created a learning robot to care for the doggie should his ticket to cross the River Styx be punched.

And thus, what starts as a familiar "man and his dog" story soon segues into a "man and his robot" tale that nevertheless follows in the same trajectory. Albeit one with the robot -- who eventually names himself Jeff (and is voiced by Caleb Landry Jones who also supplies the motion capture performance) -- quickly growing up, becoming increasingly sentient, and ending up as the title character's non-human, human-esque friend.

Hanks once again brings his empathetic everyman qualities to this role that certainly doesn't seem much of a stretch for him to play, what with having acted opposite a far less chatty or reactive volleyball decades ago in "Cast Away." With another performer playing the part, it's possible this nearly two-hour offering could have easily gone sideways into camp or bad sci-fi, but Hanks grounds the material in easy to watch believability.

Jones is also good as the cobbled-together mechanical being (that thankfully doesn't go the Frankenstein's monster route) and brings enough humor and humanity to the part that "Jeff" might go down as one of cinema's more memorable robot creations.

While there's nothing really new here that we haven't seen before, all involved make it engaging, entertaining, and heartfelt enough -- even if the pooch gets relegated to background character status and any hungry cats are nowhere to be found -- for "Finch" to earn a 6.5 out of 10 score.

Reviewed November 1, 2021 / Posted November 5, 2021

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