Review by Paul Gibbs
If there’s an area wherein 2021 has been a particularly strong movie year, it’s been in the category of animated films. Along with Disney and Pixar giving us typically strong fair with Raya and the Last Dragon and Luca, Netflix offered the excellent The Mitchell’s Vs. The Machines, and anyone who bad mouths Paw Patrol the movie around me will have to fight a duel twice as brutal as the one Matt Damon and Adam Driver fought in empty theaters this past weekend. The latest addition to this delightful lineup is Ron’s Gone Wrong, the long-awaited (at least by me) follow-up to the cult classic Arthur Christmas by director Sarah Smith (joined here by Jean=Phillipe Vine and Octavio E. Rodriguez). And if it’s not as original as Arthur was, Ron makes up for it with humor, heart, and and some interesting commentary on the role of social media and electronic devices in our lives.
Our protagonist Barney (voiced by Jack Dylan Grazier) appears to be the only kid in the world (or at least at his school) who doesn’t have a Bubblebot, the new technological craze that’s designed to be “Your best friend out of the box”. B-Bots, as their abbreviated, are like an iPhone mixed with R2-D2, and and the social media network they inspire reminded me of a cross between TikTok and Skynet. When Barney’s Dad (voiced by Ed Helms) messes up by not buying the nerdy Barney a B-Bot for his birthday, he buys an unregistered bot under the table out of desperation. The B-Bot (voiced by Zach Galifianakis) is soon christened “Ron” because that’s part of its serial number. But (surprise!) Ron’s gone wrong (which nobody ever says in America, but the filmmakers are British), malfunctioning in ways that are alternately endearing and alarming. And of course, soon Ron and Barney form a special friendship.
Ron’s Gone Wrong follows the basic story concept of many previous films, including classic like E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, The Iron Giant, and E.T. : The Extra-Terrestrial (worth mentioning twice because it’s definitive), but it’s so sweet, so funny and so genuinely thoughtful that should entertain and captivate most audiences. Parents can watch it with their kids without getting bored, and it will even stimulate some valuable conversations about including everyone and why they shouldn’t obsess over how many clicks or follows they get. Part of the metric by which a family film should be judged is whether it holds a child’s attention, and my five-year old son Timmy loved it (his reviews can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hL4O5TnAops&t=8s , but I’m not letting him obsess over how many plays it gets.). Ron’s Gone Wrong is a delight from beginning to end, for adults and children alike.