No sooner have you finished watching one animated family film about the dangers of technology with the voice of Olivia Colman then another one comes along to take its place. It’s like getting a new iPhone home from the Apple store only to find they have announced a newer model. So will Ron’s Gone Wrong have people queuing round the block for the chance to see it?
The film centres on Barney, a socially awkward middle-schooler and Ron, his new walking, talking, digitally-connected device, which is supposed to be his ‘Best Friend out of the Box.’ Ron’s hilarious malfunctions set against the backdrop of the social media age, launch them into an action-packed journey in which boy and robot come to terms with the wonderful messiness of true friendship.
It feels like a disservice to compare Ron to The Mitchells Vs The Machines just because they have similar themes. Like comparing the iPhone to an Android. They are both phones, just with different designs and features and essentially do the same thing. Plus Hollywood is no stranger to competing films e.g. Antz vs A Bug’s Life or Deep Impact vs Armageddon.
Yet despite their inherent similarities, mainly the danger of over-reliance on technology and exploitation of users by Big Tech, the execution of each film is different enough to allow both to merit an “Alexa play…”.
Where The Mitchells painted the picture as one family trying to save the entire world, Ron is a more intimate affair. The story of a boy trying to save his best friend. Think of it as E.T. for the Facebook generation.
This is enhanced by the vocal performances of Jack Dylan Glazer (Barney) and Zach Galifinakis (Ron) who manage to generate a real bond between the two.
The film has important things to say about device addiction, screen time, privacy, use of customer data by corporations and the dangers of social media and internet trolling on young people. Yet the messaging becomes slightly muddled when the lead villain is the Steve Jobs-lite, black-polo-neck-wearing character and the saviour is the guy who created the digital device that harvests all your data and keeps you online. Who happens to be called Mark… coincidence? I think not!
In spite of the technological advances, this is a hark back to the Amblin family films of the 80s. Back to a simpler, more wholesome time. When animated films weren’t completely filled with visual puns, slightly rude jokes the parents get but go over the heads of kids and excruciating British Z-list celebrity cameos.
Ron might look like EVA from Wall-E but has more in common with the Tin Man from Wizard of Oz. In that at the end they both unexpectedly find themselves full of heart.
Ron’s Gone Wrong is in cinemas from October 15th.
Director: Sarah Smith, Jean-Philippe Vine, Octavio E. Rodriguez
Stars: Zach Galifinakis, Jack-Dylan Glazer, Olivia Colman
Runtime: 106 minutes