Ron’s Gone Wrong (2021)
Directed by Sarah Smith, Jean-Philippe Vine & Octavio E. Rodriguez
Starring Jack Dylan Grazer, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms and Olivia Colman
By Tim Basaraba
Now that Disney owns everything, is it fair that DNEG Studio’s (formerly known as Double Negative) first film didn’t get the marketing it deserved? No. It sure isn’t. In monopolized industries there are always winners and losers, and ol’ Walt’s namesake sure likes to stack up them W’s.
Rya the Last Dragon made 55 million with the Disney marketing machine behind it; Encanto made even more. Both films are beautiful, and their stories are about triumph over immeasurable odds. Ron’s Gone Wrong, however, is very different. Is the animation engaging and are the characters interesting facsimiles of human beings? Yes, but this film is nowhere as beautiful to look at as Rya or Encanto.
The power of Ron’s Gone Wrong comes from the camaraderie between young Barney, (played by Jack Dylan Grazer of Stranger Things fame), and Ron (voiced by the comedic genius Zach Galifianakis). Ron is the only defective “digitally connected device” out of millions made by a mega corporation that’s taking social media to a whole new level starting with the youngest generation. Incorporating elements of Short Circuit (1986), Chappie (2015) and a touch of the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy (2010-2019), the directors hook us on this relationship between a boy who on the surface is lacking and a defective robot who has everything he needs: a relationship with Ron.
This story is a direct reflection of the pitfalls of social media and parents who say, “do what I say, not what I do” when it comes to digital technology. The film is satirical about this topic, but never accusatory. There are few who aren’t guilty of abandoning nature and interpersonal relationships for short bursts of dopamine via our devices. One of the few characters who doesn’t struggle with this temptation is Donka (Olivia Colman), Barney’s nondescript eastern European grandmother. Her character serves as a window into “the old ways” and it’s done with humor in a non-mocking way. Donka, and Barney’s Dad, played by Ed Helms, remind us how fun life was before smartphones and personal robots.
As with all buddy films, the friendship is put to the test with an emotional payoff at the end. I’m well outside the target demographic for this animated feature but it brought me to tears and changed my attitude on what’s important. If you want to laugh, cry and re-focus on the things that matter most in life, please see Ron’s Gone Wrong. It might not have gotten the big marketing dollars when it hit theaters, but as a consolation prize you can already watch it on Disney+.
If the Disney marketing-powered Rya the Last Dragon (2021) and Encanto (2021) are both B+’s, Ron’s Gone Wrong is an A-.