REVIEW: Hilarious ‘Ron’s Gone Wrong’ is the most fun your kids will have at a movie this year
SALT LAKE CITY — As a parent I sometimes worry that even in this incredibly connected age of information, my kids will struggle to make friends and connect to them in real life–and not just online. Or that they might focus too much on social media likes and shares and miss out on real-life moments.
Apparently, the makers of Ron’s Gone Wrong, the new animated kids film from 20th Century Studios were thinking along the same lines.
Ron’s Gone Wrong is set sometime in the near future. An Apple-type technology company named Bubble has invented a robotic toy called a B*Bot. It’s billed as “your best friend out of the box” and is kind of like if EVA from WALL-E and an iPhone had a robot child. It’s a versatile device that kids can ride like a scooter or have it cast 3D video, or “battle” other B*Bots. It knows everything about its owner based on their social media and online activity, and it tries to connect with as many other B*Bots owned by kids with similar interests as possible.
But poor Barney Pudowski (Jack Dylan Grazer) is the only kid at his school who doesn’t have one. Barney lives with his single dad (Ed Helms) and crazy grandmother (Olivia Colman). Dad struggles to keep his online novelty items business afloat and so the family can’t afford a B*Bot, which makes socially-awkward Barney feel even more outcast than usual.
Dad and grandma buy pool their money together to get Barney a B*Bot for his birthday, but all they can afford is a damaged one that fell off a truck and is being sold in an alley. Barney is thrilled that he’ll finally be able to connect with others kids, but he quickly learns that his particular B*Bot, named Ron (voiced by Zach Galifianakis), doesn’t work exactly like the other kids’ do.
Not only does Ron not know anything about his new owner, his wiring system is definitely defective, and Barney realizes he’s going to have to teach Ron how to be the perfect pal. But, unlike the other Bots, Ron is infinitely curious, deeply loyal and determined to support Barney, even though other kids make fun of Barney for his “defective” friend. Working against them are some executives (Rob Delaney, Justice Smith) at the Bubble Corporation, who don’t like the idea of an independent B-Bot with no safety protocols running around.
There is a lot to like about Ron’s Gone Wrong. I found it to be quite hilarious, even as an adult. Writers Peter Baynham & Sarah Smith really shined in creating humorous situations and dialogue that were very clever. Ron the B*Bot understands things like a child and his interpretation of certain instructions was just right in the wheelhouse of my sense of humor. I laughed out loud at enough parts that my kids were probably embarrassed to be sitting by me.
I thought the script was quite timely and clever, jumping just enough into the future that it could avoid being a specific commentary on any particular current social media app or trend, but rather showing some of the downside of the whole social media culture itself. It also highlights the dangers and drawbacks of too much connectivity in a way that kids today can really understand and relate to.
But really, the whole show hangs on the likeability of Ron and it got a near-perfect Zach Galifianakis to hit the sweet spot of wide-eyed innocence and genuine friendship in his voice, along with his natural comedic timing and talent. The designers who created Ron’s simple look allow for some really funny moments with his occasionally-failing graphics and basic white egg shape with Pong-era pixels. I’m always amazed at how animators can make me care about things that you never would give a second thought to before you see them in an animated movie.
There really aren’t any warnings speak of. I took all but my two oldest kids, and there was no content that made me uncomfortable at all. Ron’s Gone Wrong is rated PG for some rude material, thematic elements and language, but no swear words. The run time is also a very manageable hour and a half so nobody’s attention span should wander too far.
I initially felt that the movie’s characters and situations were unique, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that sometimes it felt like Ron is just a miniature version of Beymax from Big Hero 6. That doesn’t make him any less likeable, but I definitely noticed that. There are also some similarities to moments from earlier this year’s The Mitchells vs the Machines.
However, none of that is really a problem. Ron’s Gone Wrong is easily the most fun your kids will have seeing a movie in the theater this year. Even parents who are just going to the movie to make their kids happy will find something to laugh at, and it’s both appropriate AND enjoyable for all ages.
As always, I recommend parents talk with their kids about the messages from any movie after you watch it together.
WHERE TO WATCH IT
Parents should know you will not be able to watch Ron’s Gone Wrong at home just yet. The movie is playing exclusively on the big screen for now, so if you feel comfortable going to the theater, it’s worth your trouble.
Hopefully you & your family found this review helpful! Andy Farnsworth is the movie and pop culture guy for the KSL 5 Today morning news show and also hosts the Fan Effect podcast for KSL NewsRadio. Check out some of his other in-depth reviews of movies and streaming TV series on KSLTV.com.
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