Adventure Animation

Review: ‘Ron’s Gone Wrong’ is a Lesson About the True Meaning of Friendship, as Well as the Not-so-Friendly Side of Social Media

October 9, 2021Ben MK

We live in a world ruled by social media. Statistics like the number of likes or shares has the power to turn an average person into an instant celebrity or transform them into a pariah of the digital community, and friendships have been reduced to a series of bits and bytes that are interpreted as a simple checkmark on the screen of your favorite device. But what if there was a way to make the experience of making friends fun and exciting again — what if there was a company that could give you that perfect friend, right out of the box?

In the animated adventure Ron's Gone Wrong, that company is Bubble, a billion-dollar tech giant best known for its phones and tablets. But with its latest innovation, the aptly named Bubble Bot, millennial Bubble founder Marc Wydell (Justice Smith) hopes to revolutionize the very way kids make friends, by creating an intelligent, learning robot programmed with its own special algorithm for friendship. At first, the concept seems to be a success, with pre-teens and parents all over the world jumping on the Bubble Bot bandwagon. And it's not long before B-Bots become a commonplace sight, accompanying kids to school and rolling alongside them through the streets of their neighborhood. What Mark doesn't count on, however, is a defective Bubble Bot ending up in the hands of middle school student Barney Pudowski (Jack Dylan Grazer).

A petrology aficionado who's often the target of bullies, Barney has been eagerly anticipating the day when he would get his very own Bubble Bot — especially since every other kid at school seems to have one. But when his dad Graham (Ed Helms) and grandma (Olivia Colman) finally gift him one for his birthday, Barney finds himself sorely disappointed, after discovering that his expensive new toy — which he dubs Ron (Zach Galifianakis) — only has a partially installed operating system and can't quite get online to download the necessary updates. Still, that doesn't stop Ron from getting out and trying to experience the world. And while Barney is initially annoyed by Ron and his quirky, malfunctioning behaviour, he soon grows fond of his robotic best friend.

Directed by Sarah Smith, Jean-Philippe Vine and Octavio E. Rodriguez and written by Smith and Peter Baynham, the results follows in the family-friendly footsteps of other animated movies like Big Hero Six and Abominable, as well as such live-action classics as E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Short Circuit. For when profit-hungry Bubble CEO — and Tim Cook lookalike — Andrew Morris (Rob Delaney) gets wind of Ron and the threat he poses to the company’s bottom line, it ultimately falls on Barney and his family to save Ron from being permanently decomissioned, and perhaps teach the world a thing or two about friendship and loyalty along the way.

It all amounts to a familiar message. Yet, despite Ron's Gone Wrong's induldgence in genre tropes, it's the film's lesson about the not-so-friendly side of social networks that sets it apart. After all, it's not often that a kid's movie comes along highlighting the very same problem that adults were warned about in The Social Dilemma. And with younger audiences being as tech-savvy as they are, it only makes sense to school them early — rather than making just another tale of sentient robots run amok.

Ron's Gone Wrong releases October 22nd, 2021 from 20th Century Studios. The film has an MPAA rating of PG for some rude material, thematic elements and language. Its runtime is 1 hr. 46 min.

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