By Mark Kennedy | Associated press
There is a clear message in the new movie “Ron’s Gone Wrong” and that message is to stop watching movies like “Ron’s Gone Wrong”.
A tale derived from a middle school student and his eccentric computer sidekick, the animated film seems to want to preach that we should all disconnect from our devices and reestablish human contact. So what will the filmmakers do with all this adorable merch?
Ron’s Gone Wrong thinks it’s subversive when it’s really, really corporate. He wastes his voice – including Olivia Colman, Ed Helms, and Zach Galifianakis – and he never really connects, ending as awkwardly as a modern seventh grader with a collection of rocks.
This actually perfectly describes Barney Pudowski (Jack Dylan Grazer), a sweet but lonely kid who dreads playtime because all of his classmates have totally cool high-tech bots, which are egg-shaped devices walking, talking, digitally connected strangely resembling Eve from “Wall-E.”
Bots are hailed by their creators as “the perfect friend” and a “whole new world of connection”. They show off the robots at a hype-filled apple event that will leave adults chuckling. “How can you have fun offline?” It is against nature! says a co-creator.
Soon everyone in college has a bot except Barney, who is even more ostracized. Bots serve as a sort of sorting hat: they connect like-minded owners, then capture and stream videos, make friend requests, like posts, and promote their owners.
Barney, with ears that protrude like satellite dishes, craves his own bot, but his widowed father and eccentric grandmother are too poor and ideologically opposed. “I don’t want you to be hooked on a device,” says his father, who sells novelty items and is addicted to his device.
But seeing their son so gloomy, Grandma and Dad buy a model that literally fell from the back of a truck. It looks like a regular bot, but it’s damaged, lost some code, and can’t connect to the internet. You have to teach him what friendship is.
Co-directors Sarah Smith, Jean-Philippe Vine and Octavio E. Rodriguez, working from a script by Smith and Peter Baynham, could have strayed from that premise. But they choose a surprisingly violent and slow path as Barney and his bot, Ron, explore the concept of friendship while fleeing from the tech giant who created it and wants to destroy it, like “ET”
By now we’re very used to movies featuring kids with adorable robots, from “Short Circuit” and “The Iron Giant” to “Big Hero 6”, “Next Gen” and Bumblebee from the “Transformers”. “. We understand: these steel, childish creatures somehow make us more human.
But “Ron’s Gone Wrong” follows the same path to an unsatisfying ending. A friendship movie that pokes fun at modern high-tech devices as mere data collection units built by companies only interested in stock prices ends with those same robots still in everyone’s life.
It’s a movie that screams for everyone to turn off their robots and go play stickball. But then, what would happen to the toy versions of the robots of every Happy Meal, the airline trade tie, or the Walmart night lights?
The film comes out as the heat is put on TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook about high tech in adolescent behavior and addiction. Research shows that some platforms can harm mental health and body image, especially among teenage girls.
“Ron’s Gone Wrong” cynically nags tech makers, but doesn’t properly treat the machines they make. It doesn’t even deter the idea that algorithm-based steel toys may indeed be our friends. He ape too many films already released and even his theme song – “Sunshine” by Liam Payne – is a pale imitation of a Maroon 5 song. “Ron’s Gone Wrong” has indeed gone wrong.
“Ron was wrong”
1 1/2 stars out of 4
Evaluation: PG (for coarse material, mature thematic elements and strong language)
Duration of operation: 107 minutes