'Finch' review: Tom Hanks, a robot and a dog go on a tedious road trip

Tom Hanks is basically a superhero, but he can't rescue this post-apocalyptic road trip drama from its weepy underpinnings.

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic

It's the end of the world and Tom Hanks is the one of the last human beings hanging on for dear life. Sure, why not, he's earned it. But the treacly, maudlin "Finch" is not the film humanity, or even Hanks, is going to want to be remembered by.  

This touchy-feely post-apocalyptic road trip drama, directed with a heavy hand by television veteran Miguel Sapochnik ("Game of Thrones"), takes an overly sentimental path in telling the story of a man, his robot and his dog. It so yearns for a feeling of nostalgic Americana that it features at least three callbacks to Don McLean's "American Pie," a song that needs to be retired by the movies already. And when it goes for its warmhearted moments it comes off as unintentionally hilarious. Rare for Hanks, the movie is a major malfunction.  

Tom Hanks in "Finch."

Hanks is Finch Weinberg, although he pretty much just goes by Finch, since formality was lost once the solar flares wiped out the ozone and wreaked havoc on humanity. That was about 15 years ago, we're told. Earth temps are now around 150 degrees, give or take, and 14-day sandstorms whip across the heartland, making the land all but uninhabitable.

Still Finch perseveres, although he's coughing up blood, and that cough isn't going to get any better on its own. (There's no doctors who will see him, because they're all gone.) But he has his trusty dog, whom he calls Dog, but is really named Goodyear (don't ask), and he needs someone to take care of Goodyear in his absence. So he builds himself a robot.

That robot can rattle off all sorts of interesting facts about the world but is a child at heart, or at least in the wires and gears that stand in for his ticker. Once online, he begins asking all sorts of big questions about life and death. Couldn't Finch have engineered himself a less annoying android? 

"Finch" is mostly about the relationship between Finch and his robot, who chooses to go by the name Jeff, because he just wants to be an average guy. Jeff, voiced by Caleb Landry Jones, is sweet, naïve and emotionally needy, and comes off like a cross between a 7-year-old boy and a mechanical Borat. He's clumsy and fumbles around but his eyes, or the lenses that allow him to see, go soft when he sees a butterfly. Awwww.    

Jeff, Finch and Goodyear are on a cross-country trip from St. Louis to San Francisco, where there are signs of life, so they pack up the camper and hit the road. Along the way there are fights (in one particularly clunky exchange, Finch yells at Jeff, "I know you were born yesterday, but it's time for you to grow up!") and bonding, as well as roadside campfires. It's all very ritualistic and all very American. (A quick gripe about the film's use of "American Pie," while we're here: if Finch is roughly 65 years old and the movie takes place at least 15 years in the future, that makes him born around the year "American Pie" was released. Is that really the song from his youth he'd be whistling to himself and playing on cassette in the car? It's possible, but come on.)

Hanks has no problem being the only human on screen — he did it before, to better effect, in "Cast Away" — but the script is slight and the execution is clumsy. One driving sequence is set to Talking Heads' "Road to Nowhere," an obvious cue for a film that telegraphs its moves with glowing neon signs. Bye-bye Miss American Pie, indeed.   

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

'Finch'

GRADE: D+

Rated PG-13: for brief violent images

Running time: 116 minutes

On Apple TV+