Friday, September 21, 2018

Next Gen

It's almost impossible not to compare Next Gen to Big Hero 6 with a story about a troubled young protagonist finding friendship with a big and bulky, but obviously still cute, robot who helps the kid work through emotional baggage and save the day from an evil super-genius. Focusing on the emotional volatility of a troubled girl, there's also a splash of Inside Out angst thrown in for good measure. If you own Big Hero 6 I'd suggest watching that instead, but, if you are looking for something new, Next Gen will help you pass the time.

The film from co-directors and writers Kevin R. Adams and Joe Ksander takes place in the technologically advanced near future where every family, and apparently lots of children, have their own personal robot. There are all sorts of logistical issues with dangerous household robots that would immeadiately lead to an insane amount of damage and lawsuits (including torturing and beating small children, no Law of Robotics here!). The film instead chooses to ignore such logic gaps (like any government oversight, I guess the Libertarians run the future?) and lead with its heart as much as possible.

The story begins in earnest when our protagonist Mai (Charlyne Yi) befriends a stupid robot (John Krasinski) while running away from security at the largest robotics manufacturer (who also runs the police, Maybe? Again, unclear storytelling). Despite her initial reservations, Mai warms to the robot when she discovers she can use him to get revenge on the mean girls that have been torturing her for years, led by Greenwood (Kiana Ledé). As with Big Hero 6, the robot chooses to help Mai, seeing their friendship as a means for Mai to deal with her emotional issues, but eventually chooses to try and prevent the destructive path of its friend for her own good.

For good measure, the movie throws in an evil Steve Jobs style villain (Jason Sudeikis) which ramps the plot into full action mode in its final act and puts May's relationship issues with her mother (Constance Wu) and others on hold for some rampant destruction. This extended sequence also becomes the event which will finally force Mai to look at herself and those around her with new eyes.

In the end Next Gen feels like a straight-to-video retread of better films. The movie is passable, although I could have done without the sappy teen pop soundtrack and more than a few forced emotional beats. Still, the animation is fairly well done, and there was obvious thought that went into the design of the robot (if not the world in which he and Mai inhabit).

No comments: