‘Next Gen’ Review: A Charming and Exciting Animated Sci-Fi Film

Next Gen

During opening credits, we see a floor with arts and craft supplies spread all about. A shadow of a little girl keeps popping onto the screen. Suddenly a photo of a very happy family (wife, husband, daughter, and dog) appears on the floor. Suddenly Mai (Charlyne Yi), a small, happy girl with purple hair appears on the screen as she applies a rainbow sticker onto the photo. Mai looks to be about two or three and is satisfied with her work. Suddenly her dog, Momo (Michael Pena) attacks her lovely and they wrestle playfully on the floor until Mai’s mom and dad, who has a soccer uniform on, appear with dad heading for the door. There is a bitter argument going on, and apparently, the happiness we saw in the picture is gone for this family. The father angrily leaves the house, and we see tears form in Mai’s eyes.

As further credits roll, we see that mom and Mai are now living alone. We see they get a personal robot, which the mom is more excited about than Mia, who looks worried about her mom’s reaction. We recognize that the robot becomes part of the family, in fact, the robot seems to be more important to the mom than Mai is. We see that Mia has no friends in school and while she is still young, her father dies, with a visit in the rain to his grave by mom and Mai. We see that Mai gets picked on not just by her classmates but also their personal robots. We see from further photos that Mai has become a fierce, angry and rebellious teen.

We cut to Mai sitting in the backseat of a car with Momo next to her, a soccer ball resting under her arm and a perturbed look on her face. With the help of her personal robot, mom (Constance Wu) is more interested in what cat videos she can find on the internet than interacting with her daughter. Mom sees the state of Mai, mom pulls a talking hairbrush, and Mai complains that mom has to have everything be a robot. Mom tells Mai that ‘you sometimes need a little help, you aren’t in this alone’ and then sets the hairbrush robot onto Mai’s hair. We can hear Mai complain and struggle with the hairbrush as we see the car drive into a big modern city.

The city is big and modern, with robots all over the place, doing everything from washing windows, cleaning the streets and even robot trash cans. Mom and Mai’s car pulls up, and Mai has a bunch of flowers in her hair, with a style that is nothing like the punk style she had before the makeover. We see that Mai and her mom are attending a big announcement of a new version of the personable robot. This is an event that will change both her mom and Mai’s lives forever.

This is a delightful and highly imaginative animated film that the whole family will enjoy. The film tells the story of Mia, the girl without any friends, stumbles upon a secret robot project named 77 (John Krasinski) and the robot becomes her best friend. The problem is the CEO of the company, Justin Pin (Jason Sudeikis), think Steve Jobs on steroids, wants his robot back and he is willing to do anything for that to happen.

The main storyline is that the robot learns about friendship and how important memories are, through teaching her robot. Mai also learns about how crucial it is to trust. The developing friendship between the troubled girl and the robot is warm and fun to watch as they learn about each other. Project 77 becomes not only Mai’s best friend but also her protector, helping her deal with a gang of school kids led by Ani (Anna Akana), a tough as nails soccer player who likes to torment Mai.

I loved the animation and its modern world of robots that do everything for the humans. The look of the film is warm and shows lots of detail. What Sci-Fi fans are going to enjoy in this movie are the numerous battle sequences, notably a rip-roaring final battle that is right up there with live action featured films.

The voice cast is perfect with Charlyne Yi does a magnificent job as the surly Mai whose heart is melted by a robot that she lets reluctantly into her life. John Krasinski, while using an almost unrecognizable voice, works as the robot that wants to learn what memories mean. Both Jason Sudeikis, as the man who wants to install robots in every facet of the lives of the city dwellers and David Cross as the inventor of Project 77, are hilarious in their roles. I especially loved Michael Pena who voices Momo, Mai’s dog. Project 77 is the only one who can hear what Momo is really saying and it makes their interaction so much fun.

Next Gen is a charming, moving and exciting film that will maybe shed a tear or two but also has plenty of action sequences to make it a movie that the family will return to time and time again.

My Take: Full Price

My movie rating system from best to worst:
1) I Would Pay to See it Again
2) Full Price
3) Bargain Matinee
4) Cable
5) You Would Have to Pay Me to See It Again


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