Next Gen is a Netflix original animated movie directed and written by Kevin R. Adams and Joe Ksander. I went into this movie with no expectations given Netflix usual track record with original animated content, but I was pleasantly surprised. It has solid animation and a heartwarming story backed by a great. Altogether it makes for a fun and charming movie even if it can be pretty cliche and all over the place at times.
The story is set in a future where robots are everywhere and used for just about everything. They main robots we see are like a very advanced version of a smartphone, (they play music, help around the house etc.) but there are also robots who are common items such as toothbrushes and hairbrushes and even some who have replaced teachers and police officers. This film right from the start wants you to know how dependent these people have become on robots.
The main plot revolves around a young girl named Mai, voiced by Charlyne Yi. One of the great things about this movie is that they set up Mai’s character from the opening credits explaining through a montage that her father left her and her mother when she was young. Consequentially, her mother began to use robots as a way to cope with it and neglects her in the process. This makes Mai grow up to hate robots and want nothing to do with them.
Of course, in typical kids movie fashion she accidentally bumps into Project 77, voiced by John Krasinski, the worlds first self-learning robot and the two go on a journey together, where she begins to see that robots might not be all that bad. They also have to worry about a bad guy trying to take over the world, but that takes a back seat to the fun hijinks of a girl and her robot. While the plot is pretty bare bones even by kid movie standards, it’s the interactions between the characters where the movie really shines.
The cast does a wonderful job here. Charlyne Yi as Mai really captures the spirit of an angry and lonely teenager, providing more than a few emotional moments. I adored John Krasinski as 77, there’s just something about his performance that makes you want to become best friends with him. Both actors have a wonderful rapport filled with not just comedic moments, but some genuinely heartwarming ones as well. The rest of the cast is also great, particularly Constance Wu, who plays Mai’s mother and Micheal Pena as a Chihuahua who made me laugh every time he was on screen.
The animation is not Pixar quality, but it’s by far the best I’ve ever seen for a direct to streaming movie. It was crisp and colorful and the character design was great. I loved the robot’s designs in particular. They were simplistic and streamlined while also being pretty cute. I could see why the majority of the population would want one in their home.
However, the world around the robots was pretty bland. It just felt like modern day San Francisco, that just happened to have robots in it. It didn’t bother me too much, I just wish it was given a little more attention.
Overall, Next Gen was a great time. It does have its problems such as an inconsistent tone, a weak villain, and some ideas that aren’t fully fleshed out, but I can get over all that. It is fun, action-packed, and surprisingly emotional with a message that is important for anyone of any age to hear. You can tell that there were care and attention put into this movie more so than a lot of the kid’s movies I’ve have seen recently. I highly recommend this to anyone with kids or just any fan of animation in general.
Overall, Next Gen was a great time. It does have its problems such as an inconsistent tone, a weak villain, and some ideas that aren’t fully fleshed out, but I can get over all that. It is fun, action-packed, and surprisingly emotional with a message that is important for anyone of any age to hear.