Ron’s Gone Wrong

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

Ron's Gone Wrong
dir Sarah Smith, Jean-Philippe Vine
scr Peter Baynham, Sarah Smith
prd Lara Breay, Julie Lockhart
voices Zach Galifianakis, Jack Dylan Grazer, Ed Helms, Olivia Colman, Justice Smith, Rob Delaney, Kylie Cantrall, Ricardo Hurtado, Ava Morse, Cullen McCarthy, Liam Payne, Marcus Scribner, Thomas Barbusca
release UK 15.Oct.21,
US 22.Oct.21
21/US 20th Century 1h46

galifianakis grazer colman
london film fest

Is it streaming?

ron and barney
Lashings of goofy charm, brightly coloured imagery and frantic action make this resolutely silly animated romp enjoyable. And it even has a decent message buried under all the usual guff about the importance of family and friends. The filmmakers perhaps try a bit too hard to keep the jokes firing throughout the slapstick narrative. But it's ultimately impossible to resist a movie that's this warm and funny.
Teen loner Barney (Grazer) is the only one in middle-school who doesn't have the latest gadget: a Bubble-Bot, designed to be your best friend and make you popular online. Perhaps this is why he's lost touch with his childhood buddies: clownish bully Rich (Hurtado), popular Savannah (Cantrall), quirky Ava (Morse) and gamer Noah (McCarthy). Then his dad (Helms) and old-world grandmother (Colman) get him a B-Bot named Ron (Galifianakis) for his birthday. But the mischievous Ron can't connect to the web, so Barney has to teach him how to be a friend. With riotously unpredictable results.
With a relentlessly energetic pace, the movie never gives us a chance to be bored, wearing down our cynicism with a barrage of open-hearted humour. Most of the characters and situations have a standard set-up, and some jokes are rather cheap, but the details that come along are often likably nutty. The animation has an eye-catching design, with cartoonish touches and an entertaining attention to unexpected detail. So most of the characters are able to transcend the stereotypes.

Most impressive is how Ron comes so vividly to life with his fairly simple appearance augmented by Galifianakis' expressive voice work. This helps create an unusually involving relationship between Barney and this malfunctioning plastic blob, so much so that the trajectory of the plot actually becomes provocative, avoiding the obvious crowd-pleasing conclusion for something more thoughtful and meaningful. And the soulfulness in each of the characters grounds the humour in some recognisable emotions.

While there is the expected finger-pointing at the effects of letting kids spend too much time looking phone screens, the film's central theme has a far more humane kick, reminding us that friendship is about give and take, not just what another person has to offer us. It's a simple point, but it's made in a gentle way, avoiding sentimentality while maintaining the ridiculous stream of jokes right to the end. Although in the end it's perhaps too structured and corny to be a classic, it'll definitely leave audiences with a smile.

cert pg themes, violence 9.Oct.21 lff

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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall