Ron’s Gone Wrong review: A kid-friendly, tech-upgraded Iron Giant

New animated film is based on the presence of its adorable, white and round companion robot. Ron’s Gone Wrong may look like a fresh take on Disney’s Big Hero 6The film is about Hiro Hamada, a young inventor, who grieves with Baymax, his helpful companion and healthcare assistant. Together, they save the planet. But while the two films’ robots look physically similar, Ron’s Gone Wrong actually shares more storytelling DNA with 1999’s Iron GiantThe two focus on the friendship of young boys with robotic friends, while the greater forces work to eliminate anomalies. This is based on fears about the unknown.

Sarah Smith, directorArthur Christmas), Jean-Philippe Vine, and Octavio E. Rodriguez, Ron’s Gone WrongLocksmith Animation’s debut animated movie, titled, brings a new twist to the traditional boy-meetsrobot story. While the movie drags in the latter leg, and doesn’t pack as much nuance into its themes of technology and social media as it could, the crux of the story — the friendship between awkward Barney (Jack Dylan Grazer) and malfunctioning robot Ron (Zach Galifianakis) — is heartfelt and humorous.

[Ed. note: This review contains some minor setup spoilers for Ron’s Gone Wrong.]

ron standing in front of a bunch of flyers that say “Please Be Barney’s Friend!”

Image: Locksmith Animation

Ron’s Gone Wrong Barney is a middle school student who struggles to make friends. He is connected to a B-Bot robot friend who algorithmically maximizes his friendships. It is almost impossible for children without B-Bots to be friends. B-Bots can engineer these interactions. Barney was the only child in his school who didn’t have one of these robots until his dad, down on his luck, surprised him by buying one for his special day. Unfortunately, because Barney’s dad bought the bot off a delivery guy in the back of a tech store, the B-Bot is defective and lacks the quintessential B-Bot friendship algorithm, as well as many of the expected safety features. As Barney and Ron build their friendship, Ron’s chaotic behavior catches the attention of the leaders of omnipresent tech company Bubble, particularly COO Andrew Morris (Rob Delaney), who is not exactly happy with a defunct bot ruining the company’s image and alienating its shareholders.

From the moment Ron powers up, he’s hilarious. He repeatedly fails to connect to the internet, and is only able to download information under the letter A, so he defaults to calling Barney “Absalom.” After a day at school, Barney returns to find out that Ron has explored every inch of his room — and burned his underwear, because Barney instructed Ron to learn everything about him so they could be best friends, and of course that includes learning the heat resistance of Barney’s underwear. Smith with Peter Baynham (Co-writer)Borat) craft jokes that range from pretty damn funny slapstick to specific goofs about technology, and it’s incredibly amusing.

Ron’s Gone Wrong is about trying to make a meaningful connection in the digital age, but unlike this year’s The Mitchells and the Machines, the film doesn’t really present a nuanced take on technology, beyond making it clear that relying on it can hamper real-life connections. However, the friendship between Barney and Ron blossoms beautifully, especially with Ron trying to understand the human concept of friendship, and creating his own algorithm based on Barney’s instructions. Barney can also learn a lot about being a friend, emphasizing that it is all about reciprocating relationships. Friendship isn’t as simple as an equation, and the movie does a great job of showing how much work goes into any connection. Eventually, Barney and Ron’s connection inspires some of Barney’s classmates to step outside their algorithmically generated comfort zones.

ron and barney riding through the woods

Image: Locksmith Animation

Similar to the previous, Iron Giant interrogates America’s Cold War paranoia from the 1950s, Ron’s Gone Wrong touches on the 2020s’ overarching influence of tech moguls, as Andrew frantically tries to apprehend the defective robot. To him, nothing is more important than his shareholders, and he’s willing to sacrifice user privacy and even Barney’s life to keep his investors happy. While Ron being pursued is an important component of the movie — especially when it comes to who helps him and how — it also does add a heist sequence toward the end of the movie that feels prolonged. Barney and Ron’s willingness to risk it all for each other shows how close their friendship is. They feel like Hogarth and Iron Giant with a tech mogul instead of the United States government worrying about foreign weapons.

Ron’s Gone Wrong It is filled with laughter and sweet messages about friendship as a two-way street. This theme also includes the question about what technology can do to people. While that can occasionally feel a bit one-sided, it nevertheless poses a compelling villain who carries out some damning, close-to-home actions — like spying on B-Bot users via the bots’ cameras — in his pursuit of Ron. Ron’s Gone Wrong It could easily be made into a film about social media’s perils, but the movie works best as an example of how friendship can blossom through traditional methods or high-tech devices.

Ron’s Gone WrongThe film will open in cinemas October 22.

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