A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that F.R.E.D.I. is a kind of E.T.: The Extraterrestrial clone, featuring a smart robot (instead of a wise alien) who becomes a high school student's secret best friend. As the boy bonds with the sweet and protective portable robot, insensitive adults are the enemies, as in the earlier film, and the boy and his friends do their best to protect the robot from being compromised by a greedy weapons manufacturer. The teens are earnest and honest. A parent is distracted however well-meaning, which leaves the boy on his own to cope with impending threats. Violence and threats are relatively mild and language is tame ("crap" and "jerk").
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What's the story?
F.R.E.D.I. is the acronym for an artificial intelligence robot project created to protect human beings in threatening situations. When Dr. Palmer (Kelly Hu) discovers that the head of her lab wants to corrupt her work and use it as a weapon, she takes the robot out of the facility and hides it in the woods. James (Lucius Hoyos), a teenage boy, discovers it and quickly develops a relationship with the remarkable machine. Hiding it from his dad, Randy (Tyler Christopher), who is dealing with the financial fallout of divorce, James attracts the malicious attention of Arachancorp's nefarious CEO (Angus Macfayden), who hunts him and the robot down. Physical threat is in the air from financially motivated adults, but one adult, the robot's inventor, wants to keep her work out of the CEO's hands. With James' help, she's able to reprogram F.R.E.D.I. and maintain her humanity-helping qualities by making her seem to self-destruct, a disintegration that causes weeping all around. At the end, as the robot reveals that the destruction was all a ruse to get Arachancorp to back off, she introduces a cliffhanger that clumsily sets up the possibility of a sequel.
Is it any good?
In light of the deeply moving scenario painstakingly set up in Steven Spielberg's E.T., this movie presents a pale paint-by-numbers retread of the now-familiar plotline. This movie doesn't work to create deep relationships, nor does it ask much of its viewers emotionally. When James and his friends cry at F.R.E.D.I.'s disappearance, it's unlikely that any audience members will be crying along, as this go-round lacks the depth and thoughtfulness necessary to trigger true empathy in an audience. Older kids and tweens, however, may yearn for the adventure of finding a charming robot and protecting her from evildoers, which could make this a harmless-enough after-school entertainment.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the way that divorce can cause the kind of financial issues and emotional pain that can get in the way of proper parenting. James' father's preoccupation with selling his business and house may blind him to his son's worries and needs, but do you think the dad ultimately proves himself when given the chance?
How do James' friends show their loyalty?
Does F.R.E.D.I. feel like a rip-off of E.T.? What are some similarities? What are some differences?
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