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Film / Fly Away Home

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"C'mon, Geese!"

Fly Away Home is a 1996 family film Very Loosely Based on a True Story, directed by Carroll Ballard (The Black Stallion) and starring Anna Paquin, Jeff Daniels and Dana Delany.

After her mother dies in a car accident, Amy Alden (Paquin), a 13-year-old girl, moves from New Zealand to Ontario to live with her father, Thomas Alden (Daniels), an eccentric inventor whom she barely remembers (her parents split up when she was 3). Amy doesn't like the lonely surroundings, she doesn't know what to make of her father, and she misses home and her mother.

Then one day, after a bulldozer has knocked down a tree on some property near their house (which Thomas is upset about), Amy discovers a nest of abandoned eggs on the ground. She takes the eggs to Thomas' barn, and they hatch into baby geese. Because of the process of "imprinting", the geese think Amy is their mother, and she takes care of them as a mother would. However, soon it will be time to migrate south, so Thomas, an amateur pilot, builds ultralight aircraft for himself and Amy so they can get the geese to fly and then be able to fly south for the winter. Along with the problems of flying, and getting the geese to fly, Thomas and Amy also have to deal with Glenn (Jeremy Ratchford), a park ranger who initially tries to pinion the geese to render them flightless (Amy doesn't respond well to this), and then wants to confiscate them when they start flying. Not only that, but Amy and Thomas' intended destination for the geese (a bird sanctuary in South Carolina) becomes a battleground between environmentalists and developers.

This film contains examples of:

  • Actually Pretty Funny: The Air Force base commander eventually loses the battle to keep a straight face while he's trying to rebuke Thomas and Amy for the unauthorized landing.
  • All There in the Manual: The novelisation establishes why the park ranger didn't clip the geese' wings straight away after he abducted them; now that they've grown, that kind of operation requires more preparation than just the quick snip he would have needed to perform if he'd done it when they were still chicks.
  • Answer Cut: When Thomas first finds Amy and the newly-hatched goslings in the barn.
    Amy: Can I keep them? Please?
    (Cut to a shot of goslings in the house.)
  • As Himself: Sort of this trope: as Jeff Daniels couldn't be insured to pilot the ultralight, the scenes of Tom flying actually featured the Real Life Bill Lishman - the "Father Goose" naturalist and pilot on whom Tom Alden is based - in the cockpit.
  • As You Know: Amy is a teenager who grew up in New Zealand but still needs clarification as to what the governing Crown is when a Canadian mentions it.
  • Berserk Button: Amy's memorable response to Glenn trying to pinion the baby geese is to hit him over the head with a bowl of popcorn.
  • Big "SHUT UP!": Susan does a memorable example of this trope in reaction to the noise from the bulldozers and the guy on the megaphone. She's as surprised as anyone when it actually works.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • When the park ranger comes by the house again to remark that the geese are flying, Amy attempts to scare him off by making her uncle sound more threatening than he is, going as far as stating that his nickname is "Killer".
    • When David is trying to get the supplies across the border to Thomas and Amy, he tries telling the border patrol that the gear is for his camping trip. When the guard points out that he's carrying a ridiculous amount of fuel, he states that he brought a generator along on his trip to power a blender and DVD player. The guard doesn't seem to buy it.
  • A Boy and His X: A Girl And Her Geese. Amy takes care of a flock of orphaned geese and eventually teaches them their migration route.
  • Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Thomas is more than a little eccentric (as is his brother David), but they're both talented, and serious, scientists.
  • Chekhov's Gun: After landing at the Air Force base, Thomas makes an offhanded remark about the rudder on his plane being a little bit loose, which he treats as more of an annoyance than anything serious. This is the part that fails in flight a few days later, causing Thomas' plane to crash.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Amy's Uncle David. He has a lot of quirks, and introduces himself to Amy by bringing up a Christmas when she was a baby and she ate the Silly Putty he gave her.
  • Cooldown Hug: Susan gives this to Amy after the incident in the shower (see Naked First Impression below).
    Susan: Amy, listen to me. I know I can never replace your mother. No one can. But if you let me, I can be your friend. And the first rule of friends is they have to be able to trust each other, right? I promise you, nothing is going to happen to those geese. I won't let it and neither will your dad.
  • Cool Old Lady: The elderly woman with the hunter rifle.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Amy has her moments, such as when she sees the replica Thomas has built of the lunar module.
    Amy: Sure. Every home should have one.
  • Disappeared Dad: Why Amy doesn't really get along with Thomas at first. While he technically wasn't the one who left them, he nonetheless counts as this trope because he didn't make much of an effort to stay in Amy's life after the divorce. He admits it was because he was having trouble facing the reality of his own mistakes (suggested to be that he was so wrapped up in his art that he didn't have time for his wife and child) that led to the separation.
  • Downer Beginning: The car crash that killed Amy's mom (and injured Amy) happens during the opening credits.
  • Funny Background Event: In Universe example; while he's chewing out Thomas and Amy for disrupting the air base, he pauses to yell at some airmen who are playing with the geese in a hanger.
  • Gonna Need More Trope: After Thomas' first attempt at flying fails, David and Barry's first reaction is, "We need a bigger engine".
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: You can tell this is a PG-rated family film because both adults and kids react to seeing Amy and the geese flying by saying, "Oh my gosh!" Though there is one memorable exception; see Precision F-Strike below.
  • Hard-Work Montage: The scenes of Thomas, Amy and the others trying to get the geese to follow Thomas in his plane so they can fly south for the winter.
  • Idiot Ball: Thomas forgot batteries to the navigational system. As a result, they weren't some miles west of Baltimore, they were in Baltimore. Cue dodging buildings.
  • Improbable Weapon: A popcorn bowl, funnily enough.
  • Mama Bear: More like Mama Goose (hee hee!) Amy, of course; especially after the Warden tries to clip one of the goslings' wings. (He presumably intended to get to them all, but he didn't even get a chance to clip the first one before Amy intervened.)
  • Mood Whiplash: When Amy and Thomas land at the air base, they are arrested by soldiers and taken to the commanding officer, who chews them out for making an unauthorized landing. Then, when Amy apologizes and says "[they] promise not to do it again", the commander starts laughing. The scene cuts to the entire company getting their picture taken with the pilots and birds, then sending them off with a salute.
  • Naked First Impression: Thomas' friend Barry gets more than he bargained for when Thomas breaks down the bathroom door to find Amy screaming and just out of the shower.
  • No Animals Were Harmed: Stated in the credits.
  • No More for Me: Referenced. After Amy and Thomas accidentally end up flying through downtown Baltimore, a news anchor suggests that, "If anybody is still into a two-martini lunch in Baltimore, they may swear off for good after this."
  • Parents as People: Thomas was ultimately the one who caused his and Amy's mother's separation, and he failed to visit Amy or attempt to maintain a relationship with her. However, it's clear throughout the film that he's trying to build a relationship with her, and does everything within his power (including selling his Lunar Lander replica and building two aircraft) to help Amy get the geese south.
  • Precision F-Strike: Unlike everyone else in the film, a hunter's reaction to Amy and the geese flying over him is, "Holy shit!"
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The baby geese are positively adorable.
  • Race Against the Clock: The geese need to get to the bird sanctuary by November 1st, or it reverts over to developers.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: The Air Force base commander. He's rightfully pissed off at Amy and Thomas landing illegally at the base (and nearly getting themselves shot), but after chewing them out for a few minutes, it becomes clear he's trying very, very hard not to laugh. He lets them spend the night at the base, then he and his men send them off the next morning with a salute.
    Amy: We promise we'll never do it again.
    Commander: Okay. As long as you promise. (starts grinning uncontrollably)
  • The Runt at the End: Igor, a goose with a limp which makes him walk and run slower than the others, which causes him to have difficulty flying as he can't get up to takeoff speed. Once he does manage to get airborne, though, he's fine — that is, until he collides with Amy's plane and loses a few critical feathers, requiring them to come up with an alternate solution of strapping him into the plane with a baby carrier (so he can still see the route). The epilogue reveals that he, along with the rest of the geese, was able to successfully fly back to Canada the following spring.
  • Saving the Orphanage: A bird sanctuary is threatened with demolition unless there are birds in it by November 1st.
  • Scenery Porn: Good grief, there are several stunning shots that make the audience want to pack up and head to Canada.
  • Sleeves Are for Wimps: Barry models a lot of sleeveless shirts throughout the movie.
  • Villainy-Free Villain: The park ranger who tries to pinion the geese, and who later confiscates them, is only following the law concerning domesticated geese (except for the part where he took them in the middle of the night without a permit).
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Glenn, the park ranger who tries to pinion the geese.