Netflix recently released the animated movie Nextgen. This is probably one of the first attempts to produce an animated blockbuster to compete with Pixar and Dreamworks past successes. Boasting a voice cast filled with big names: John Krasinski, Jason Sudeikis and Michael Peña, and experienced writers like Kevin Adams (Hercules) and Joe Ksander (Narnia) – Nextgen promised to be a hit like Disney’s Big Hero 6 or WALL-E. For our family, there was something for everyone: a female lead for my girls (8 and 6), cool technology for me, and John Krasinski (at least his voice) for my wife. We made it into a family movie night.
The movie revolves around the relationship between Mai (Charlyne Yi) and 7723 (John Krasinski). The robot quickly becomes her loyal friend as she navigates the challenges of pre-adolescence in school and loneliness at home where she lives with her distracted mother (Constance Wu). There is also the cute but foul-mouthed (don’t worry it gets all bleeped) Momo (Michael Peña) who adds comedic effect to dramatic scenes. The protagonists find themselves enmeshed in a plot of global significance as they try to stop Tech CEO Justin Pin (Jason Sudeikis) from destroying humanity.
Apart from entertaining flashes here and there, and tender moments between the robot and the girl, the movie fails to deliver. It has the right cast, compelling scores and decent plot. Yet, somehow it falls short because of details. For once, the length of 1 hour and 45 minutes is long for the genre. Close to the end, my girls were calling to wrap it up. The villain lacks a compelling backstory that would allow us to engage more deeply with the plot. The story itself lacked compelling storylines that would allow the movie to stand on its own rather to become one more Sci-Fi animated movie for children. Besides, it lacked the character chemistry from Big Hero 6 and the social critique of WALL-E. While promising too much, the movie accomplished little.
This review would not be complete without including my two daughters’ thoughts. My eight-year-old thought that there was too much violence and that became a turnoff at the end. My six-year-old enjoyed it for the most part. Halfway through the movie she told me she was sad for the girl in the movie. Later, she said she liked the movie. Yet, a few days later, the movie has already gone into oblivion. I believe that will be the case for most children watching the movie. While they’ll be entertained, it will most likely not be one they will be watching multiple times.
Reality Changing Observations:
Q1. Do you enjoy watching animated movies with your children? Why or why not?
Q2. Why is violence so prevalent in our entertainment options?
Q3. Would you consider having a companion robot in the future? Why or why not?