Spoiler Warning: The following review contains some spoilers for Next Gen, which is streaming on Netflix as of the date of this post.
If anything becomes evident from my reviews, then I imagine it is that there are certain genres of movies that I’m willing to give a chance: kids riding bicycles sci-fi and documentaries about anything I like are two that have featured. This week’s review falls into another one of those categories: cute animated robot movies. Movies like The Iron Giant, Wall-E, Big Hero 6, and Astro Boy all have incredible re-watchability, adorable robots, and major heartfelt moments. A fairly new addition to that genre, Next Gen, might not be the best animated robot movie ever made, but it’s definitely worth a watch if you’re into these types of movies.
Next Gen takes place in a world where sentient robots have become a part of everyday life and serve humans in all ways. There are robot talking assistants, robot talking garbage cans, and robot talking, self-heating ramen noodle cups. Everyone loves robots and all they can do except for our hero, young teenage girl, Mai. Mai lives with her Mom after the loss of her father and regularly tells everyone how much she hates robots, which falls on flat ears if anyone listens to her at all. A prototype robot with incredible weapons and a heart of gold escapes his lab, and the creatively named 7723 ends up finding Mai. What follows is an admittedly predictable story about a girl seeking approval and a robot finding itself in the world.
Predictable doesn’t mean bad. Mai and 7723 have a lot of touching moments—including an interesting aspect where 7723 is running out of memory and has to choose which memories he can keep and which he has to delete. Since running out of memory would cause a complete reboot of his system, you see the inevitable conflict coming from far away, but it’s still executed with tenderness and heartfelt emotion. The action scenes are definitely fun, and the animation looks great. There’s even a twist of sorts in the end that I felt kept the story from being completely predictable, even though I probably should have seen it coming. It’s both a compelling story, and I’m hard pressed to think that anyone who likes these kind of movies wouldn’t at least have a decent time watching it.
The only real thing that keeps Next Gen from reaching the upper echelon of these movies is that it feels a little inconsistent in its tone. Mai’s family has a dog that only 7723 can understand. His jokes are funny but perhaps a little more adult oriented than the rest of the movie. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy them, but it was a trend with a bigger theme that this movie seemed to struggle just a bit with what its intended audience was. It was broadly a kid’s movie, yes, but it also had some jokes that felt like they were intentionally put in for a different type of laugh. The best animated movies meld these together and the jokes are fit seamlessly into the rest of the movie. This missed that perfection.
Obviously that isn’t a major complaint because I did enjoy watching the movie. Next Gen isn’t perfect, but it’s definitely worth streaming. If you’re not into animated movies or against kid movies broadly, then you won’t enjoy it. In that case, you’re probably not fun anyways, so I don’t particularly care what you watch.