Ron’s Gone Wrong

As we’ve learned over the years, both in the news and in the fictional world, when technology falls into the wrong hands, lousy happenstance occurs to innocent people. Think about Matthew Broderick’s David Lightman in “WarGames.” He may have been a socially awkward teenager who hacked his way into a military computer, but he proved to the so-called brains that kids have a knack for understanding when something goes wrong; it demonstrates that the young have a fundamental understanding of right and wrong.

Think about when that technology is socially engineered to not only connect you with the rest of the world instantly (I’m looking at you, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok), but to also mine your data to learn your habits to be ‘better’ consumers and to be your only conduit into the world is a dangerous proposition.

This is but one aspect of 20th Century Studios’ and Locksmith Animation’s animated “Ron’s Gone Wrong,” the story of Barney Pudowski, voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer, who dreams of having a B-bot, a pill-sized robot friend, to both fit in with the rest of the crowd, since he does not and to fill a void he so desperately needs – having a group of friends.

Co-directed by Jean-Phillipe Vine and Sarah Smith with a script by Peter Baynham and Smith, “Ron’s Gone Wrong” seeks to offer a balance between big corporate interests and the consumers they seek to obtain. You can probably figure out the third piece of that circular square without this review offering said help; suffice it to say, Baynham and Smith’s script lacks courage and conviction, especially in the conveniently wrapped-up third act.

Sure, it has answers for just about every question it asks; however, the story leads far too much and is too on the nose with a convenient solution. Leading that charge is Ron himself, voiced by Zach Galifianakis. Ron is not your ordinary B-bot. Where every other B-bot comes out of the factory already connected to the internet and ready to read your profiles and your likes and dislikes, so that it can pair you up, virtually, with like-minded individuals, the danger is that a teenager who might not understand what’s happening, might inadvertently open themselves up to a situation they didn’t intend, or worse, to ‘friends’ who are not-so-friendly.

Left to his own devices because of a less-than-ideal familial situation, Barney must endure the sneers of his peers as their egos get a boost from the technology doing the work of socializing for them. Yes, his dad, Graham (Ed Helms) is trying to do his level-best to make sure his child has everything he needs, but Graham can’t be there for his son full-time. Helms’ voice work as the overtaxed, and underseen father is solid, while Olivia Colman voices Donka, Barney’s grandmother, whose bubbly and politically-infused personality overbears with the best of intentions.

Barney and Ron eventually find their way into each other’s lives, a product of a mishap. If there’s a signature moment in “Ron’s Gone Wrong,” it is their initial encounter and a chance to explore what friendship means, the most vital theme of this otherwise forgettable film, thanks to Galifianaikis’ delivery of the film’s humor.

Perhaps those ideas are lost in its algorithms, “Ron’s Gone Wrong” has something to say even if it falls on deaf ears. “Ron’s Gone Wrong” is in theaters on October 22.