As modern technology has taken over the world, a variety of movies and TV shows have tried to grapple with its effect on society. Those attempts have varied from the massively cheesy ‘90s film The Net to more serious efforts, including the so-believable-it’s-scary series Black Mirror. Now comes Ron’s Gone Wrong, an animated film that offers a more lighthearted look at the issue.
Barney (Jack Dylan Grazer) is an only child whose family, which consists of his dad, Graham (Ed Helms), and grandmother, Donka (Olivia Colman), is not on the cutting-edge side of things when it comes to new gadgets. So Barney must look on in envy as the rest of his schoolmates have fun with B-Bots, a new invention from Bubble (a clone of Apple) that is not just an all-in-one entertainment device, but also automatically connects users with potential new friends.
Barney’s old-school family finally gives in to his desires for his birthday, but being frugal, they do a back-alley deal for a damaged B-Bot (Zach Galifianakis), one that malfunctions almost immediately upon activation in ways big and small. Naming it Ron, Barney tries to pretend the robot is just like everyone else’s, but it proves impossible to hide Ron’s flaws.
Written by Peter Baynham and co-directed by Sarah Smith, Jean-Phillippe Vine, and Octavio E. Rodriguez, the film makes a lot of humorous hay out of the glitches that Ron experiences. Whether it’s only being able to look up things from the first few letters of the alphabet, doing things that no other B-Bot is allowed to do, or having an off-kilter “face,” nearly everything about Ron is designed to elicit a smile at worst, guffaws at best.
The design and mission of the B-Bots makes them appear to be a mix between EVE from WALL-E and Baymax from Big Hero 6. The writers also seem to take more than a little inspiration from those films, although they mostly spare viewers the dark overtones found in those films. The message about society’s — and especially children’s — addiction to technology is strong in the film, although they stop short of advocating against its usage altogether, perhaps acknowledging that it’s impossible to avoid a tidal wave when you’re swimming in the ocean.
Instead of making technology itself be the villain, they settle on a tech executive named Andrew Morris (Rob Delaney) who’s focused on profits above all else. His presence is only intermittently effective, and then only because he’s the polar opposite of Bubble CEO Marc (Justice Smith), who seems to believe in all the good that technology can bring. Good vs. evil is a simple thing to sell in a movie like this, not the shades of gray that color the ideas in it.
Ron’s Gone Wrong is a pleasant and inoffensive movie, but it never hits the fun, emotional, or intellectual heights as some of the best animated films. For now, its technological innovation is a fantasy; let’s hope it stays that way.
Ron's Gone Wrong opens in theaters on October 22.