Director: Kevin R. Adams, Joe Ksander
Screenplay: Kevin R. Adams, Joe Ksander
Starring: John Krasinski, Charlyne Yi, Jason Sudeikis, Michael Peña, David Cross, Constance Wu
Runtime: 104 Minutes
The instantly notable tonal fluctuations in Next Gen neatly encapsulates the rocky road to come, seeming at first to be an aggressively narcissistic animated kids’ film that gives in to becoming something that's just lifeless and predictable.
Largely aping Big Hero 6 in its setting and central pairing of young disenchanted youth Mai Su (Charlyne Yi), who also has an absent family member, with a big round robot buddy called 7723 (John Krasinski) who will help them out while also foiling a sinister plot from a tech conglomerate giant (Jason Sudeikis).
At first it appears that it wants to comment on consumer capitalism, specifically taking its aim at Apple products with a villain in the mould of Steve Jobs and Silicon Valley types (because that's not played out enough), and how it infects the minds of the populace of its nameless futuristic city by making people (specifically parents) neglectful.
A Chinese co-production exhibited from its setting to its central character ethnicity and vocal casting in Charlyne Yi, it has the same problem that so many widely appealing mass-market exercises have in aping the aesthetics of western pictures. That being the utterly inane and forgettable dialogue and storyline. So much of which that it's hard to differentiate the intentional postmodern self-referential lines and quirks from the lazy writing.
It's all a weak limp mess, with vocal performances from the likes of David Cross that feel really phoned in, robots having personalities that don't abide by Asimov's Laws or Robotics at all let alone work as capable utensils, and for some reason a swearing dog that that film seems to think is hilarious enough to keep on as a running gag.
The only real strength it has is the animation and action sequences being quite well done, even if they're mostly unengaging scenes of robots fighting each other and a sound design that's similar to the paradoxically loud yet empty sound design of the recent Transformers films.
There's one interesting concept brought up concerning memory as a unifying connection between the leads, with Mai Su's emotional baggage and 7723's memory bank filling up being a ticking clock narrative device about making new memories and not looking back all the time. But it's never engaged within an effective enough way to leave the emotional impact intended.
Next Gen is an algorithm of an animated film that just ticks the boxes without considering the imagination and thought put into the projects that it's copying. It's passable but dull filler.