Noah Haley watching a movie with his dad, Peter.
As the film opens, we are taken to the high tech firm Time Labs, where Director Raddock (Greg Lutz) is conducting an experiment with a non-functioning robot, called the A.R.I.-9. An impatient and dictatorial man, Raddock orders his team, led by Dr. Simon (Cait Brasel) to up the electrical power being sent to the robot, despite her warnings that it could be too much for the robot. He insists, and the resultant power surge and explosion nearly destroys the lab. With things in disarray, one of the company’s programmers, Peter Haley (J.R. Brown) is ordered to come back to work that evening to review and fix the robot’s coding. Peter is frustrated because he already puts in long hours and was in the middle of a father-son night with his younger son, Noah (Jude Manley). Noah is a high school nerd, spending all his spare time playing video games, and tinkering with mechanical things like a toy robot. He does have one good friend, Bethany (Sophia Alongi), who participates in on-line games with him, and is savvy with social media. Peter asks Noah to come along with him to the office, so at least they could spend more time together that evening. While in the lab, Noah notices that a cart covered with a tarp is being pushed by two workers toward the storage room. Curious as to what is on the cart, he follows the cart and is able to sneak into the storage room because the workers have forgotten their keys to lock the door. Inside the room, Noah discovers under the tarp that there is non-functioning robot on the cart, which he guesses is about to be scrapped. Impulsively he grabs it and puts it into his large backpack.
Noah and Bethany are trying to get A.R.I. to jump out of a window.
None of the people at Time Labs were aware that A.R.I.-9 was activated by microwaves, not regular electrical power. At home, Noah put a piece of pizza into his microwave, and some of the bursts of energy are drawn to A.R.I. who is still inside his backpack but now starting to activate. Inside his room, Noah tells Bethany of his find, and then has to go to bed. He has left A.R.I. on a table near an open window, and early morning sunshine rays finish re-activating the robot. There is an E.T. moment as the two meet, but Noah discovers that A.R.I. is quite personable and friendly, with many special skills and abilities. When Noah tells A.R.I. that he has to go to school, the robot begs him to let him come along, as he always wanted to attend school. At school we discover some of those abilities first in the library with Noah and Bethany, then in their social studies class where A.R.I. transmits information for an oral report Noah never did across the room to him. Later Noah discovers that A.R.I. is capable of becoming invisible, and can stop flying objects midair, which freaks out two bullies trying to harass Noah after school. Meanwhile, at Time Labs, the decision is made to scrap the A.R.I. and start a new line of robots. However, the one missing thing is an operating system for the new robot, and the head of the company tells Raddock and other team members to just use the system from the A.R.I.-9. That’s when it is discovered that the robot is gone. They are able to track A.R.I. down remotely where they discover that he is in the process of rebooting his system. However they cannot stop A.R.I. until they have physical control of him because he was designed to be totally independent. Now the chase is on.
A.R.I. is able to project images and data anywhere.
Director Raddock sends out a team of men after the robot, and at first A.R.I., Noah, and Bethany are able to elude them. But they have another serious problem: A.R.I.’s batteries are running low, and every time he does something special, like turning invisible or flying, it drains them down. A.R.I. tells them that his “father”, the man who created him, would know what to do. Now, in addition to fleeing from the Time Lab people, Noah and Bethany must figure out how to find Professor Eggy (Bill Jenkins). Worse yet, the Time Lab people discover how to put A.R.I. into battle mode, where he suddenly becomes their enemy. The remainder of the film is about how all of these threads to the story work themselves out.
Bethany and Noah at the park.
There definitely has been a proliferation of family-oriented films in the sci-fi genre about kids gaining super powers, meeting and helping aliens stuck on earth, discovering dinosaurs living today, helped out by talking animals, or in this case rescuing an amazing robot from destruction or misuse by mad scientists and the military. While many of these films are touted to have good family values, they continue to promote bad stereotypes when it comes to science. Not every research lab has a resident mad scientist. Artificial Intelligence doesn’t automatically come with middle class values and behaviors. Helping someone or learning to do good in society doesn’t always require a violation of the laws of physics or biology. In these days of climate change and pandemics, it is important to listen to the real advice of doctors and scientists, not dwell in a world of unrealistic fantasies. And the subject matter of The Adventures of A.R.I.: My Robot Friend isn’t new territory by any stretch of the imagination. D.A.R.Y.L., back in the mid-eighties, was one of the first films to cover the subject of robots with likeable human characteristics about to be altered or destroyed by the military-industrial complex. That said, most kids will find this film enjoyable. Jude Manley and Sophia Alongi are two quite likeable as the lead characters. The animation of A.R.I. and the special effects are well done and look realistic. So check your brain at the door and enjoy this movie if you like this type of family-oriented science fiction, but realize that spending a lot of time with these types of stories is like burying your head in the sand with all that is going on in the world today.
A.R.I. is reunited with his creator, Professor Eggy.
Bethany goes to pick up a metal disk.
Sophia Alongi in her role as Noah’s friend Bethany wears optical white high top chucks throughout the film. White high top chucks are a popular footwear choice for teenaged girls. The best close up scene of them is near the end of the film when she is struggling to save her friend Noah by grabbing a disk to throw at an enemy robot. Jude Manley (Noah) also wears optical white high top chucks in the opening few scenes of the film, but after that is only seen wearing black low cut skater shoes. There is a humorous continuity error in the scene at the Time Lab. Noah enters and exits the lab wearing white high top chucks, but then is seen wearing his black skater sneakers in the hall ways.
A second close up shot.
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