A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Next Gen is an animated sci-fi adventure that takes place in a futuristic city where robots play a significant role in citizens' lives. The story centers on the relationship between an angry 12-year-old girl named Young Mai (voiced by Charlyne Yi) and an AI (Artificial Intelligence) called 7723 (John Krasinski), who join together to fight a villain. While relationships are at the core of the story, viewers can also expect lots of cartoon mayhem: robot battles, human fighting, explosions, laser and gunfire, falls, chases, a human held captive, bullies, and threats to the entire populace. A quick-tempered pet erupts in angry gibberish to simulate swearing, which is then bleeped. The film also offers thoughtful messages about dealing with loss, healing, and the importance of memories in each individual's life. Based on friendship, love, grief, evil, and justice, this story has lots of characters and story elements, but kids in middle grades and up who are used to some complexity should be able to follow it.
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What's the story?
Young Mai (voiced by Charlyne Yi) is one angry girl in NEXT GEN. She hates robots; she's bullied; she can't seem to get her mother's attention. And she's never recovered from her father's leaving her and her mom, Molly (Constance Wu), years earlier. Molly hasn't helped matters; she's obsessed with robots, as well as Justin Pin (Jason Sudeikis), the genius behind IQ Electronics, who like Steve Jobs before him, is revered as the face of the future. But unbeknownst to Justin Pin, in a secret lab at IQ Electronics, Dr. Rice (David Cross) has created an extraordinary prototype AI (artificial intelligence), whom he calls 7723 (John Krasinski). When 7723 escapes from the lab, in a stroke of great serendipity, it's Mai whom he encounters. Bent on revenge, Mai sees 7723's powerful strength and abilities as the answer to what she calls her "unfocused rage": getting back at the bullies and the robots. Awed by his first real view of the world outside the lab, 7723 sees Mai as a new and wonderful friend in need of his guidance and protection. As their relationship surges, changes, and ultimately becomes a very important one, the two discover a dire threat to the world that only they may be able to stop.
Is it any good?
A warmhearted story lies beneath the vibrant animation and imaginative cartoon mayhem, all made distinctive by the outstanding cast of actors and the original characters they've created. Charlyne Yi's Mai is unique: surly, funny, needy, and smart. John Krasinski is wonderful as 7723, evolving almost magically from robot to almost-human. Jason Sudeikis and David Cross are simply terrific. Next Gen is long and packed with many characters and plot complications that probably didn't need to be as complicated, and it has some striking changes in tone. But it's easy to see why Netflix came up with a lot of money when the film was up for sale in Cannes, France. Recommended.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the violence in Next Gen. Most of the victims in the story are robots. Does it have the same impact as when human characters are killed or injured? For kids? For adults? Why or why not?
In the movie, a scientist says "Perfect is the enemy of good." What do you think he meant? Has "trying to be perfect" ever gotten in the way for you? How so?
Track the evolution of Mai's character as the story progresses. She started out angry and hopeless. How did she end up? What events made the changes possible?
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