A seventh grade middle school student and a B*Bot become strange pals in Locksmith Animation’s new film, Ron’s Gone Wrong.
As Barney Pudowski (Jack Dylan Grazer) returns to Nonsuch Middle School for the new school year, he lacks what everyone else has: a B*Bot. He’s not the most popular kid in school and not owning a B*Bot makes him the outcast of the crowd. His dad, Graham (Ed Helms) knows how much he wants one and eventually he comes through with it but sadly, Ron aka R0NB1NT5CAT5CO (Zach Galifianakis) is as defective as they come. Ron is defective and can’t do anything right. This B*Bot is supposed to be “your best friend out of the box” but most certainly is not. How do you make friends when your B*Bot cannot do anything right? Eventually, Barney teaches Ron everything there is to know about them and they start to see each other in a different light. With Ron being defective, Bubble starts going after the B*Bot.
Upon learning that they are supposed to find Barney friends, Ron finds random people and brings them to the school during recess. One of them is a conspiracy theorist that believes that a cabal of lizard people run the world. I wouldn’t be mentioning this if such beliefs didn’t have roots in antisemitic conspiracy theories. I get that the filmmakers are trying to show that Ron can’t do anything in the traditional B*Bot way but there are better ways than resorting to antisemitic conspiracy theories. Can movies not resort to using antisemitic dog whistles when there is already a serious uptick in antisemitism?
This isn’t the first film this year in which technology has the capability to go wrong. Earlier this year saw the release of The Mitchells vs. The Machines. But in this case, it’s not so much the machines themselves in as much as it is the human’s operating them. Bubble COO Andrew Morris (Rob Delaney) has his own agenda at play–he’s all about profits over products. The tech executive could be a stand-in for any Big Tech executive. However, this film feels more like the type where they are satirizing Apple. Morris is the polar opposite of Bubble CEO Marc Wydell (Justice Smith). I’m not sure who is best compared to Wydell but he definitely wants to do right by Barney and Ron. After all, he similarly struggled with making friends as a kid.
In as much as this film is about technology, it’s also about close friendships. Sorry but technology is no substitute for close friendships. Technology may help us stay in touch with our friends but there’s nothing like hanging out in person with them. But in other ways, technology can also make the school years worse. Imagine posting something and not getting any reaction while another person gets all the likes and with it, an increasing number of friends. I can resonate with Barney in many ways because of my own experience with teasing in elementary through high school. And yet, it can still happen to us as adults. Speaking for myself, I almost left early from a Sundance premiere party in 2020 because I didn’t know anyone there. Moments later, I saw a filmmaker I knew so I decided to stay for a little bit longer.
Nonsuch doesn’t have any specific state or country but it’s got a Northern California vibe going to it. Funny enough, the filmmakers were based out of London! The film’s script may have originated with more of a British feel but Ed Helms gives the film more of an American feel. Christopher Nolan veteran Nathan Crowley handles co-production design duty and he does as good of a job as it can get on animation while working with Aurélien Predal.
With themes on social media and friendship, Ron’s Gone Wrong is a timely film coming this late into the pandemic.
DIRECTORS: Sarah Smith and Jean-Philippe Vine
CO-DIRECTOR: Octavio E. Rodriguez
SCREENWRITERS: Peter Baynham & Sarah Smith
CAST: Zach Galifianakis, Jack Dylan Grazer, Ed Helms, Justice Smith, Rob Delaney, Kylie Cantrall, Ricardo Hurtado, Marcus Scribner, Thomas Barbusca, and Olivia Colman