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Adoption in the Movies

The Country Bears

Ages: 13+
Adoption friendliness
Overall rating

I am still steamed about the commercial that Disney ran for this movie:
"Mom, am I adopted?"
"No, honey, of course not."
Despite the fact that I emailed Disney, called Rosie Magazine and USA Today, I still do not feel we ever received a satisfactory answer from Disney. They did not stop the commercial. Never published an apology as far as I know. I would still like to see a petition or some kind of message from the adoption community delivered to them. I think they should fund a foundation for adoption to make up for it and for making me cry again, now!

Patricia D Beham
Toledo, Ohio

Ella Enchanted
Ages: 5-8
Adoption friendliness
Overall rating

For a 21st century movie aimed at girls who grew up with Barbie™, Bratz, and Britney, Ella Enchanted is surprisingly sweet and enchanting. Anne Hathaway (of Princess Diaries fame) plays Ella with an engaging screen presence in a role that presents a stronger and more self-reliant Cinderella than usual. She fights her own fights (literally), isn't swooning over the prince (at least not until she gets to know him), and ultimately is responsible for delivering herself from her predicament.

While certainly not an "adoption movie" per se, there are two ways in which Ella Enchanted might be seen as touching on adoption-related issues. The death of Ella's mother and her father's subsequent remarriage to a comically evil stepmother (with two ghastly daughters) touches on the topic of blended families—in the stereotypically negative Cinderella fashion. The second is that the heroine tragically loses her birthmother at the start of the film. Beyond the natural implications these issues may raise for adoptive families, the film does not specifically speak about adoption.

As Caucasian parents of daughters born in China, we were most concerned with the racial make-up and tone of the film. Like most movies, this one was overwhelmingly Caucasian, though it gives Ella a best friend of color (in a very minor role). On the plus side, the film features racial equality as a central conflict—the "races" in question being humans, elves, ogres, and giants. Happily, the film comes down squarely on the side of both racial and gender equality.

Overall, our 4 1/2- and 7 1/2-year-old daughters both enjoyed the film—and the inclusion of a little flatulence, a few tipsy characters, and some fight scenes (including one with the very capable heroine) didn't seem to diminish their enjoyment or upset their usually strict-minded parents. We imagine that 5- to 12-year-old girls everywhere will find a new favorite in Ella Enchanted.

Chuck & Debra Kent
Evanston, Illinois

Ella Enchanted
Ages: 9-12
Adoption friendliness
Overall rating

Ella Enchanted is, well, enchanting! Blending the wicked sense of humor of Shrek and the traditional Cinderella story, with a few elves, giants, and ogres thrown in for good measure, it tells the story of Ella. She was gifted or, rather, cursed with obedience shortly after birth by her fairy godmother and must do what anyone tells her to. This has always been awkward (during a playground spat, her adversary says, "Bite me!" and she does!), but it's never much of a problem until her mother dies. Ella's mother warns her never to tell anyone about the curse, for fear that they will use it against her.

When Ella is a teenager, her father remarries to Dame Olga. Hattie, one of Dame Olga's daughters, discovers Ella's secret takes advantage of it. When Prince Charmont comes to town for a mall opening (yes, a medieval mall, complete with wooden escalator!), Hattie tells Ella to "GO HOME!" and she must comply.

The Prince is in the custody of his evil uncle, who has thrown all non-human folk out of the town. Giants are forced to labor in fields, elves are forced to perform as entertainers, and the ogres are simply ostracized. Ella realizes the parallels to her own situation, compelled to obey orders against her will, and decides to help. She convinces Prince Char to take up the cause with his uncle. This stirs up all sorts of palace intrigue with Ella at the middle but love reigns in the end.

From an adoption standpoint, this movie had positives and negatives. The biggest negative is the concept inherent in the Cinderella story—step-relations are abusive and cannot form close or affectionate ties. I credit Ella Enchanted with not dwelling on this aspect of the Cinderella story too much. Ella is strong in mind and character and is not much of a victim. Prince Charmont is also being raised by someone other than a biological parent who is manipulative and vindictive. I would be concerned that these two story lines might breed mistrust in older children.

On the positive side, this whole movie is about acceptance and tolerance. Ella recognizes that different doesn't imply inferior, and she manages to help others come to that same understanding. She also builds strong friendships with others who are not like her and shows that families are not all about biological ties. This movie featured some terrific performances and the production is sparkly and exuberant—there is much here to enjoy! I've rated this as 9-12 because of some language and crude jokes, but I personally would have no problem taking slightly younger children to see this movie.

Vanessa Robinson

Secondhand Lions
Ages: 9-12
Adoption friendliness
Overall rating

I was impressed with this movie. The boy, Walter, was able to find love and a home with his uncles, despite their peculiarities. The boy still loves his mother and knows that she loves him, but has the love, security and guidance of his two eccentric uncles. Although nowhere does it say that he is "adopted" you get that picture that love and family doesn't have to come from a biological or traditional family.

Noydena Williams
St. Helens, Oregon

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