Apple TV+’s Finch proves you really can’t go wrong when you team up Oscar-winner Tom Hanks with an adorable dog. Hanks working with a cute canine co-star is comfort food for audiences looking for a brief respite from a world gone mad. Toss in a robot named Jeff and you’ve got fine family entertainment with a surprisingly hopeful post-apocalyptic twist.
Directed by Miguel Sapochnik (Game of Thrones), the film’s set a decade after an extinction level event caused Earth to become so hot that nothing can survive outside during the day. Radiation levels and triple digit temperatures have killed off most of the human population (as well as the plants and animals), and the dog-loving Finch only managed to survive because his specific set of skills made him uniquely prepared to handle the situation.
Finch has wiled away the days, months, and years in an underground laboratory where he was employed prior to the apocalypse. He puts his knowledge as a robotics engineer to good use creating helpful and life-saving machines and technology, including a vehicle that looks like a modified lunar rover which he uses to retrieve items during foraging trips.
Life isn’t easy, but at least he has his beloved best friend, Goodyear the dog, to keep him company. And it’s because he’d do anything for his loyal companion that Finch decides to build a life-size robot.
Finch’s most impressive creation was designed with one objective in mind: when he dies, the robot will need to take over the care and feeding of Goodyear. Finch’s health is declining and Goodyear isn’t capable of surviving on his own.
Finch barely has time to upload encyclopedias and books on dogs into the robot (played by Caleb Landry Jones) before being forced to leave the bunker due to a devastating storm that will impact the lab’s electrical supply. The storm forces Finch to go on an unplanned road trip with a super chatty droid (that ultimately lands on the name Jeff after much deliberation), Dewey the lunar rover, and Goodyear inside an RV he’s adapted to run on solar power.
The oddball “family” hits the road and heads west, with San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge set as their destination. As the miles tick by and Finch’s health declines, Jeff does his best to comprehend the life lessons his creator attempts to impart as well as understand what it means to be alive.
With Tom Hanks the only human on screen and carrying on one-sided conversations, this 2021 post-apocalyptic sci-fi buddy road trip comedy has definite Cast Away vibes. Of course, there’s an upgrade to a furry, four-legged companion in place of Wilson the volleyball, but Hanks is still left doing nearly all the heavy lifting as the only flesh and blood actor. And that’s just fine as Hanks is perfectly capable of wringing every emotion out of an audience all on his own without ever playing it phony or manipulative.
It’s pretty much a given from the opening scenes where Finch is going to end up. The fact audiences won’t care the ending’s telegraphed from the get-go is due to the terrific performances by Hanks, a very talented dog, and Caleb Landry Jones in a motion capture suit. Jones does a wonderful job of conveying Jeff’s evolution from a robot who can barely walk to one that’s almost sentient. Finch and Jeff’s relationship transitions from creator and invention to mentor and student, and even edges toward father and son. Jones does an incredible job displaying this progression, altering his voice and speech patterns as his understanding of what it means to be alive grows.
Finch wraps us in a warm and fuzzy blanket of goodness, and also delivers a few tear-jerking moments for good measure. The relatively simple story – a man, a robot, and a dog go on a road trip after an apocalypse – turns out to have a surprising amount of layers and emotional depth. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry…but you’ll mostly laugh…as this weird threesome weaves its way into your heart.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief violent images
Running Time: 1 hour 55 minutes
Release Date: November 5, 2021