Next Gen, a Netflix original animated film about a robot and teen friendship, is often the sum of its amalgamated parts. He is a weapon like the one in The Iron Giant. He is round and puffy in shape like Big Hero Six. There is some obvious Wall-E elements in his build and aching loneliness. More observant viewers will notice plot and visual echoes from Up, Blade Runner, Star Wars and E.T.
All the references are a kind of emotional shorthand to our collective movie memories. In a story about remembrance and forgetting it allows the adults to see and feel Next Gen at a deeper level than their children, and maybe allow for avenues of discussion on how the movie connects to their and their children’s lives. Next Gen wants to be a kids movie that is deep enough to talk about with their children.
That it succeeds at this to some extent, puts Next Gen somewhere near the lower level of the Pixar canon. That’s not a bad place to be.