The duality of technology is one that is helpful, yet addicting at the same time. It’s one that has perplexed many out there, but the masses crave the “latest and greatest” of technology, especially when it comes in the form of social media. Over the years, the rise of various social media platforms (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, etc.) have certainly taking “centerstage” with millions of viewers out there partaking on these media platforms of socializing, sharing, and watching. There is no doubt that a wide variety of generations of different ages have taken to these social media outlets for both business or pleasure, but especially the younger generations has found a niche market in attracting and playing up these media platforms to their liking, with the consumer developing more towards the Generation Y and Z. Naturally, the addiction and palpable taste of social media (both good and bad) is one of a cautionary tale, with Hollywood tackling on several usages of social media within cinematic lines, including Nerve, Unfriended, Ready Player One, Ralph Breaks the Internet, The Emoji Movie, Searching and a few others. Now, 20th Century Fox, Locksmith Animation, and directors Sarah Smith and Jean-Phillippe Vine release the latest film to examine the social media addiction platform with the release of the animated movie Ron’s Gone Wrong. Does this cartoon tale find warmth, laughs, and meaning behind its narrative or is it just another bland “cash and grab” animated endeavor?
Bubble, one of the premiere and popular tech corporations, is giving the kids of America the ultimate social media friend, with the release of “B-bots”, making their robotic creations a must-have for kids of all ages, who looking to have their social media experience with these small, connected pals. While everyone seemingly at his school owns his or her own B-bot, Barney Pudowski (Jack Dylan Grazer) doesn’t have one as he struggles to make friends, preferring to remain alone out of unbridled fear. On his birthday, Barney’s father, Graham (Ed Helms), and his grandmother, Donka (Olivia Coleman), who can only offer the boy family love, but seeing the desperate boy wanting a B-bot to “fit in” at school, inspiring the duo to try their luck at a Bubble Store, finding their way to a defective machine to procure. Once given to him, Barney is thrilled to final have his own personal B-boy, who he names Ron (Zach Galfanakis), but the robot’s programing is off, making him unpredictable and is in need of an education on how to be a good friend to his new owner. Barney tries his best to make Ron special, but the B-bot is soon out of control, triggering interest from B-bot’s creator, Marc (Justice Smith), and Bubble’s CEO Andrew (Ron Delaney), who wants Ron back before he creates a PR nightmare for the company. As intension mount and Ron’s oddities become public knowledge amongst his peers, Barney begins to form a bond between him and his defective B-bot; promising something more than what he original expected from the little machine….. and vice versa.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
As I stated above, the rise of technology has created such a powerful vacuum for consumers and companies throughout the years; resulting in an addictive nature that’s almost a necessary evil…. sort of speak. I mean, most people use phones to communicate / talk with people, but now the power of multiple possibilities and access to streaming accounts and internet access across the globe is one of paramount importance in today’s world. Thus, the rise of the various social media platforms began and has flourished into every country across the world, with many platforms offering something slightly different / unique to attract the us (the consumer). Heck, my blogging efforts for my movie reviews wouldn’t be possible without the usage of social media outlets such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter (as well as few others). Thus, I do say that I embrace the idea of social media, but I would say that it doesn’t consume me, for I have seeing many (and I mean many) out there that their whole daily routine revolves around spending a great deal of time on a variety of social media outlets. Of course, as I mentioned above, the idea of social media has come across cinematic landscape with a few various films centering around the usage of outlet for filmmaking storytelling. Naturally, some are used for thrilling / dramatic effects for narrative driven suspense such as Unfriended, Searching, and Nerve, but there are a few that are played for entertainment purposes such as The Emoji Movie and Ralph Breaks the Internet. Personally, I like Ready Player One, which provides plenty of ground work for the pitfalls of social media addiction as well as providing the fun usage of staying connected. In the end, I think that the placement on social media (both good and bad) is something that a necessary evil; one that is vital towards connecting people and to the community (as a whole), but the addiction / consumption of it all can be one of a cautionary tale. Much like the old saying goes…. “too much of a good thing is a bad thing”.
This brings me back to talking about Ron’s Gone Wrong, a 2021 animated feature film and the latest feature film to examine the cause and effect of the social media platform craze. To be quite honest, I really didn’t hear about this movie until a few months before it’s release. This was probably due to the fact that the project was being released under the 20th Century Fox umbrella, with the Disney acquisition of the studio happening a few years back, delaying several projects from moving forward and / or being released until the acquisition was firmly completed. It is for that reason why Ron’s Gone Wrong, probably was pushed back as well as the on-going effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw animators and voice actors doing their respective roles for the upcoming kid’s movie remotely. As mentioned, I really didn’t hear about this movie until a few months back when the film’s movie trailer. From the trailer alone, it looked quite humorous, and it looked like the project was going to tackle the latest obsession of social media addiction, which definitely intrigued me to go see it. Thus, I was very much interested to see Ron’s Gone Wrong, when it was set to come out October 15th, 2021. While I did see the animated film a week after its release, my work schedule got a bit overloaded (due to the upcoming holiday season and all), so I had to delay my thoughts on this movie for a month or so until had some free time to collect / complied it for my review. Well, the time is now to share what I thought of Ron’s Gone Wrong? And what were they? Well, I have to say that they are really good. While it isn’t the most original animated film out there, Ron’s Gone Wrong gets a lot more right than it does wrong; providing plenty of animated hijinks for an endeavor that’s hilarious, insightful, and heartfelt at the same time. It may not be beat out a typical Disney or Pixar movie (in terms of storytelling and animation), but this movie is strikingly entertaining and fun to watch from onset to conclusion.
Ron’s Gone Wrong is directed by Sarah Smith and Jean-Phillippe Vine, with their directorial works including such projects like Arthur Christmas, Shaun the Sheep, and Where’s Elvis This Week?. In addition, Octavio E. Rodriguez, who’s background in the art department on such projects like Incredibles 2, Coco, and Star Wars: Clone Wars, acting as co-director to Smith and Vine. Thus, given the efforts of all three directing such an animated project, one would think that there is “too many cooks in the kitchen” for movie like Ron’s Gone Wrong. While there might be some of that effecting the feature’s latter portion (more on that below), the trio of directors do seem to strike an animated gold with the creation of Ron’s Gone Wrong, with the movie finding a pleasantly nice stride for beginning to end. At its center, the trio of directors finds the movie’s narrative squarely focusing on the friendship between Barney and Ron and how it is develop throughout the course of the film. The trio never loose sight of this, which makes for the movie to have a much more tighter fitting narration; creating a “bud comedy” as we (the viewers) watch the various interactions that Barney and Ron have with each other and those around them. This develops keeps the momentum going for large portion of the feature, which creates a lot of humorous moments as well as some sincere heartfelt ones, especially those concerning kid’s today of cyber-bullying, isolation, and outcast anxiety. Of course, this is centered around Barney, and I think it is handled quite beautifully.
On the other end of the spectrum is the film’s humor, which I found to be quite hilarious. Yes, the movie is aimed at the more younger crowd (tweens), but I found myself laughing a lot of the jokes and gags that are presented throughout the feature. Basically, almost anything that was said by Ron was quite funny and had me laughing at, but also in the way how the movie pokes fun at social media and at the members of Silicon Valley (in general terms). Also, the film does have a relatively short and manageable runtime, with the feature clocking in at around 106 minutes (one hour and forty-six minutes). Thus, it tells its story and gets out within appropriate timeframe. There are a few elements where it the movie could’ve ended (more on that below), but I felt that movie doesn’t feel superfluously bloated and keeps its focus on the core relationship between Barney and Ron at its forefront. In the end, I think that the trio collaborations of Smart, Vine, and Rodriquez definitely brings a quality to the feature; making Ron’s Gone Wrong an hilarious fun and entertaining animated movie from start to finish.
Naturally, one of the main aspects that the movie tackles / examines throughout the narrative is the usage of social media and how the commentary message of its usage has been quite addicted and part of our daily lives, especially with the younger generations. Personally, I liked how the script, which was penned by Smith as well as Peter Baynham, sort of approaches this particular subject; finding all the kids at Barney’s school so “glued” to their B-bots and how their minds are addicted to share and commenting on Bubble platform. Again, it’s a mirror reflection to today’s world, with not just adults and teenagers, but younger generations are now having a sort of fixation / attachment towards the various social media outlets and how their daily lives are surrounded by it. This is easily extrapolated from the movie (for all ages) and how the social media is addictive and how its creators / corporate greed in Silicon Valley have influenced their consumption of their product. This is can vividly seeing in the creators of Bubble in the movie, with the characters of Marc, the young inventor, and Andrew, the business owner, approach the issues with Barney’s defective B-bot, which (in a scary scenario) are probably something that can happen (and being discussed) by those who work for Goggle and Facebook. Thus, Ron’s Gone Wrong has a lot to examine and digest through its commentary themes on social media platforms and its overall usage is one that is being a “way of life” in today’s world; an eerie reflection (through a kid’s animated film) of the current world’s addiction to the platform and the masterminding of those in Silicon Valley who are behind it.
In the presentation category, Ron’s Gone Wrong is a pretty solid animated feature film endeavor that definitely has its own distinct charm and swagger about it….and that’s a good thing. The movie is the first theatrical motion picture from Locksmith Animation, relatively smaller / unknown animation studio of late, especially compared to the rest of the larger and more famously known cartoon studios out there (i.e., Disney, Pixar, Illumination Entertainment, etc.). While those more prominent studios are renowned for their efforts in children’s entertainment, Locksmith Animation does quite the exceptional job in presenting Ron’s Gone Wrong. Although it isn’t as heavily detailed or boldly rich as to a Disney / Pixar endeavor, Locksmith Animation’s for this particular cartoon film is still great and definitely fits “in-line” with today’s animated feature films. Colors are vibrant, animation designs are cleverly used, and the overall art direction feel for Ron’s Gone Wrong is delightfully charming; carrying its own distinct look. Thus, some of the various “behind the scenes” members for this film, including Karen DeJong and Till Nowak (art direction) and Nathan Crowley and Aurelien Predal (production designs) as well as the entire art department team, for their efforts on Ron’s Gone Wrong. Additionally, the cinematography work by David Peers and Hailey White is also and definitely a few moments of cinematic flair towards numerous scenes for some visual fun / entertaining sequences. Lastly, the film’s score, which was composed by Henry Jackman, provides a solid musical composition for the feature’s story; one that layers the movie that typical children’s entertainment notes and melodies, yet also providing some unique pieces to make the score stand on its own. Overall, a good score with a solid presentation for the film.
There are a few problems that I had with Ron’s Gone Wrong that don’t really derail the movie, but hold the feature back from being that much more enjoyable. Perhaps the most noticeable point of criticism is in how the last act of the film is a bit shapeless. What do I mean? Well, for the most part, the film (as mentioned above) is to be considered as atypical “buddy comedy”, with a heavily focus on the relationship between Barney and Ron. However, the movie starts to head towards into a survival / wilderness movie format in one poignant moment and one would think this is where the film’s narrative reaches its climax / resolution of the movie. Unfortunately, that is not the case, and the film continues further and ultimately becomes a heist type film for its finale; adding another layer to the feature for a story that doesn’t really require. Of course, there is some big heartfelt moments for the story to tackle during this final stretch, but it feels like the script is struggling to find a proper ending for the movie. It is because of this that the latter half is also considered to be a tad overstuffed. Thus, the third act seems a stretch and strung along and could’ve ended a lot earlier than what the final cut of Ron’s Gone Wrong decided to conclude the tale of Barney and Ron.
Adding to that notion (and not as detrimental towards the film itself) is the overall movie and how the story is presented. While I do like Ron’s Gone Wrong (a lot…. mind you), there is no denying the fact that this animated feature is nothing relatively new as the narrative of a budding friendship / relationship between a protagonist character and another has been tackled and presented every now and again, especially within a children’s animated motion picture. Thus, their a great sense of familiarity, which can be fine to a certain degree, yet the overall predictable nature of the film still lingers throughout the movie. Thus, one can easily see where the story is heading for Barney and Ron’s journey in Ron’s Gone Wrong and where the ultimately resolution is concluded. Again, it’s not so much of a big-time deal breaker for the feature, but it is merely a minor complaint of criticism.
What definitely helps the feature from overlooking those criticisms points is in the voice talent involved in Ron’s Gone Wrong, which I do have to admit are solid all the way around…. regardless if they are major or minor players in the story. Leading the charge in the movie is young actor Jack Dylan Grazer, who plays the film’s central protagonist character of Barney Pudowski. Known for his roles in IT, Luca, and Shazam!, Grazer has certainly made a name for himself over the past several years and it definitely shows, with his performance in Ron’s Gone Wrong bringing a lot of joyous fun and energy throughout the entire film. Much like his efforts as Alberto in Pixar’s Luca, Grazer emotes a lot of emotions through his voice acting, which gives his performance of Barney plenty of range; offering the charming (yet slightly stereotypical) classic loner protagonist lead, who finds courage throughout the film. Overall, I think Grazer does a great job and I did like him as Barney Pudowski. Who actually shines the better than Grazer (and is the brightest) in the movie is actor Zach Galfanakis, who provides the voice of the co-protagonist lead role of Ron, a defective B-bot who befriends Barney. Known for his roles in The Hangover trilogy as well as The LEGO Batman Movie and Keeping Up with the Joneses, Galfanakis has also made a name for himself throughout his acting career, the actor usually gravitating towards comedic roles, which do play up to his strength. Although, I do have to admit that some projects that Galfanakis has been attached to are a bit “hit or miss”. Luckily, his involvement in this animated film is one that is former and not the latter as Galfanakis is quite “pitch perfect” in bringing the voice of Ron to life. There’s a certain type of charm that he imbues Ron as a friendly yet totally misunderstood concept of ideas / wordings throughout, which provides plenty of laugh-out-loud moments in the film. Some might find the over usage of Ron’s enthusiastic ineptitude be an annoying, but I loved it, which (again) provide Galfanakis plenty of comedic room. In the end, I thought that Galfanakis was fantastic and spot on in voicing Ron and is definitely one of the most memorable (and effective) voice performances in Ron’s Gone Wrong. As a sidenote, I couldn’t fall in love with the overall design of Ron. Heck, I wish that I had a B-bot like Ron.
In supporting roles, actress Olivia Coleman (The Crown and The Favourite) is terrific as Barney’s eastern European grandmother Donka Pudowski. While she has been known for playing such dramatic and dynamic live-action roles in her acting career, Coleman has certainly been making a name for herself in the animated world, especially after her humorous performances in 2021’s The Mitchells vs. the Machines. Thus, Coleman’s vocal performance as Donka is hilarious to watch throughout the movie as one can easily hear (through her jokes, quips, and dialogue comments) that Coleman is having a blast in playing such an eccentric character. Behind her, actor Ed Helms (The Hangover and Chappaquiddick) is sturdy as Barney’s dad Graham Pudowski, with the actor providing the right amount of goofy / zany quirks of a stereotypical dad-like character as well as the necessary warmth of a fatherly figure. Lastly, actor Justice Smith (Pokémon: Detective Pikachu and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) does a solid job as Marc, the creative inventor behind Bubble’s B-bot line, while actor Rob Delaney (Bombshell and Tom and Jerry) provides to be effective as Marc’s corporate / sleazy partner Andrew Morris, who definitely looks like a Steve Jobs-esque character from its design (hair, glasses, etc.). Again, all of these players are strong supporting roles in the movie and definitely lend their seasoned acting talents for the better in the movie.
The rest of the cast, including actress Kylie Cantrall (Raven’s Home and Gabby Duran & The Unsittables) as Barney’s aspiring social media vlogger classmate Savannah Meades, actor Ricardo Hurtado (School of Rock and Glitch Techs) as Barney’s prankster classmates Rich Belcher, actor Cullen McCarthy (Mission Force One and Fat Camp) as Barney’s video game enthusiasts classmate Noah, actress Ava Morse (Surprise Me! and The History of Us) as Barney’s science loving classmate Ava, actress Ruby Wax (Girls on Top and Chariots of Fire) as Barney’s teacher Ms. Hartley, and actors Marcus Scribner (Black-ish and The Good Dinosaur) and Thomas Barbusca (The Mick and Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life) as Rich cronies Alex and Jayden, play various supporting characters throughout the movie. Some of them get more screen-time than others, but all acting talents in this group are solid in their respective roles; lending the vocal performances into this animated tale.
Social outcast Barney Pudowski wants nothing more than to have his own B-bot companion, but what he gets is something more than what he can ask for in the movie Ron’s Gone Wrong. Directors Sarah Smith, Jean-Phillippe Vine, and Octavio E. Rodriguez’s latest film takes a stab at today’s world of social media consumption and addiction; presenting a unique cartoon feature that has plenty to say of its characters and commentary messages, but also in personal story it wants to tell. While the film has a few problematic areas within its predictable formula and overextends tensions, the movie still manages to find an entertainment rhythm, especially thanks to the film’s direction, its zany and hilarious humor, touches upon the thematic commentary of today’s social media popularity, solid animation, and great voice talents all the way around. Personally, I liked this movie. It does have a few areas where the feature stumbles, but I thought that the film was pleasantly fun to watch and had me laughing at many parts. Plus, as I said before, who could not love such an animated character like Ron. Thus, my recommendation for this movie is a solid “highly recommended” as it has plenty to offer for all ages and is a good recommendation for a family movie night. It’s hard to say that if a sequel is warranted (as the film’s ending is relatively concluded), but I won’t be opposed to seeing a Ron’s Gone Wrong 2 in the near future. Even if one does or does not materialize, it still stands to reason that Ron’s Gone Wrong has a lot going for it and deserves the praise of which it has received. In the end, I think that this animated film has a lot to offer for some great entertainment value; finding Ron’s Gone Wrong charmingly fun, a bit insightful in commentary message of social media, and heartwarming in its relationship between a boy and his B-bot.