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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Adventures of A.R.I.: My Robot Friend is a live-action film about a discarded robot who's given new life by a resourceful couple of teens. The robot continues to surprise his new friends with his powers and his accessible personality. Unfortunately, the trio becomes the target of the lab manager who dumped ARI-9 and now wants him back. It's an adventure filled with suspense, unlikely escapes, and the villain's desperate efforts to retrieve his "experiment" by hiring a gang of mercenaries to help. Viewers can expect car chases, wild rides, heroes held captive, and lots of "special effect" combat: crackling electric showers, lightning bolts, and laser fire, including some hits (no injuries). Two teen bullies mock and insult one of the teens ("snot rag") and intimidate him. Scares and action are cartoonish in tone, but some caution is advised for kids who aren't yet comfortable with real versus imaginary violence. It's clear by the final credits that this adventure is the first in an anticipated franchise.
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What's the story?
When a lifeless lab robot that's not performing is sent to the company trash heap, a curious and sneaky teen, Noah Haley (Jude Manley), manages to save him in THE ADVENTURES OF A.R.I.: MY ROBOT FRIEND. To Noah's surprise, a chance encounter with a microwave oven awakens ARI-9 after years in a deep sleep. Noah includes his best friend, Bethany (Sophia Alongi), in his important but secret adventure. Their first task is finding ARI-9's "dad," who may be the only one who can help the little guy recharge his battery, as it's rapidly running out. However, back at the lab, when the evil scientist who has sent ARI-9 to be "crushed" is convinced the robot may be valuable after all, an intense search is launched. A special "security team" (mercenaries) are hired to assist. It's only a matter of time before the lab villains track down ARI-9 and his friends. From a computer, they're able to put ARI-9 in Combat Mode. Will the now well-loved robot turn on his new friends? Will Noah and Bethany be able to find ARI-9's "dad' and get him recharged before the villains pull out the stops to get him back?
Is it any good?
With a simple story, strong rooting interest, and solid acting from both the young performers and the robot, the fact that this movie is a low-budget "high-tech" film doesn't matter much. Young audiences who are willing to suspend disbelief and appreciate the rudimentary special effects should find much to like in The Adventures of A.R.I.: My Robot Friend. There's suspense, some fun surprises, and when Noah and Bethany are wowed by some of ARI-9's antics, the kids will be, too.
Of course, the filmmakers didn't miss all of the pitfalls. Some of the adult actors pale in comparison to the juniors, and the overacting there is silly and amateurish. Still, it's a solid effort from a team of folks who obviously take pride in their work, as opposed to some kid-friendly filmmakers who can't produce their products fast enough or cheap enough. A sequel is planned.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the action/violence in The Adventures of A.R.I.: My Robot Friend. Was it meant to be realistic? Cartoon-like? What is the impact of different types of media violence on kids? How does your family decide which kids' action movies are suitable for you?
Noah talks to his classmates about friendship. He compares friendship to a garden: It needs nutrients, protection, appreciation. How do you define friendship? What do you like most about the friends you have? What makes you a good friend?
The final scene "announces" a sequel. How did the filmmakers let you know? What can you expect to see next time? How do you think companies decide whether or not to create a sequel or sequels? Which characters would you want to see in another movie? Why?
- On DVD or streaming: March 10, 2020
- Cast: Jude Manley, Sophia Alongi, Justin Phillip
- Director: Stephen Shimek
- Studio: Lionsgate
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Friendship, High School, Misfits and Underdogs, Robots
- Character strengths: Teamwork
- Run time: 88 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: Mild action and some rude behavior
- Last updated: March 25, 2020
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