Monday, October 25, 2021

Ron's Gone Wrong

Not knowing what was playing last night at the local three-screen movie theater, I anticipated going to see Dune as a fan of the book and the 1980s David Lynch film of which it is a remake. I had even prepared for it by reviewing a cheapo DVD of the Lynch movie, which brought back lots of teenaged memories. I also reckoned that the latest 007 flick would be there, featuring Daniel Craig in his last outing as Bond, James Bond; I was interested in that, too, but not quite as much. But then I saw that the third option was this animated movie, whose ads struck me as fun looking, so I took a shot on it and totally scored.

Ron's Gone Wrong features the voices of Jack Dylan Grazer of Shazam! as hero boy Barney, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms (both of the Hangover trilogy) as Barney's B-bot "Ron" and his widowed dad respectively, Oscar winner Olivia Colman as Barney's eccentric, eastern European-accented grandmother, and Justice Smith of Detective Pikachu as the CEO of the tech company that makes the B-bots, a line of plastic robots designed to data-scrape a kid's social media history and customize itself to become something between that kid's best friend and their live link to cyber-society. Unfortunately, the COO of Bubble is an principled shmuck who doesn't care about kids and only wants to cash in on the technology's potential for spying on them. And when Barney's B-bot goes bananas, it's just the excuse Andrew (the shmuck) needs to wrest control of the company from Marc (the dreamer).

Meanwhile, at Nonsuch Middle School, Barney feels like the loneliest kid in town while all the other kids are focused on their B-bots and their social networks. Realizing how he feels, Barney's dad and grandma get him a scratch-and-dent B-bot that proves to be defective. Barney progresses from prepared to take Ron back to the store for a replacement to deciding he likes him after all in the space of a playground dust-up in which Ron, unable to download the product line's security protocols, smacks a school bully around. Since Ron is missing most of his programming, Barney tries to teach him what friendship is all about, and along the way, he learns a lot about the subject, too. Meanwhile, Andrew's goons are trying to round up Ron and run him through a crusher, because his programming defects threaten the company's bottom line, though Marc is starting to realize that Ron actually represents an advancement over the code he created.

The results are an ascending series of climaxes, from a chase through a Bubble store to a school yard riot to a dangerous night in the woods to an off-the-wall version of a Mission: Impossible caper inside Bubble headquarters. Barney and his bot buddy have a fight. They take turns saving each other. And after one hair-raising adventure and hilarious escapade after another, their relationship finally reaches an emotionally moving moment that changes the world.

So, terrific movie, and I'm surprised how glad I am that I chose it over Bond (not the first installment that I've skipped) and Dune (which, after all, would be the third film adaptation of the book I would have seen, counting the Sci Fi Channel miniseries from the year 2000). Apart from everything else, it delivers a message about the way social media might be making us more lonely rather than less. The first feature film released out of the UK's Locksmith Animation studio, it's a promising harbinger of great, Disney/Pixar-alternative, computer-animated movies to come.

Here are Three Scenes That Made It For Me: (1) Barney realizing that "friendship is a two-way street," and looking with new eyes at the chart he created to explain friendship to Ron. (2) Ron using the last of his battery power to save Barney's life. (3) Chaos on the schoolyard as the jailbroken (re security protocols) B-bots go on the rampage. I actually shouted with laughter (sorry) when the giant B-bot monster swallowed and pooped out the social media influencer girl, though the consequences of that for her weren't so funny. The movie had a lot of great moments in it – in fact, a surprisingly large number of them, surprising you with how high it builds as well as how deep it runs. It has compassion for some seemingly undeserving characters, and subtle writing that allows, for example, the boss villain to call it quits "to spend more time with my contacts." The whole thing comes together as a much more complete visual and storytelling experience than some animated flicks, leaving you with lots to think about and maybe even dream about after it's over. I, for one, thought and/or dreamed about it a lot last night.

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