As I have often mentioned, animated movies have the ability of exploring extremely pertinent topics in a manner that is palatable, enjoyable and enlightening for viewers of all ages. Building on the premise first introduced cinematically by Spike Jonze’s ‘Her’ (2013) featuring Joaquin Phoenix as Theodore Twombly who becomes dependent on his phone (voiced by Scarlet Johansson) as his companion and sole confidante, ‘Ron’s Gone Wrong’ focuses on AI concerns so prevalent today while adding a futuristic touch.
This time around we enter the world of 7th grader – Barney Pudowski. He’s not like the other kids and has no friends… as a result, break time is absolute torture. Exacerbating the situation are the facts that he doesn’t have the latest tech namely, the B*Bot and he lives with his eccentric, inventor father and ‘frightening’ (to others) Bulgarian grandmother.
The B*Bot has been invented to be everyone’s friend – it is a super-charged, hyper-social version of our smart phones in robot form. Little, however, do they know what actually lies behind the sale of these high-tech pals (I don’t want to give away anything more at this stage except to say it covers a wide array of concerns about privacy and the damage social media can cause if it gets into the wrong hands).
When Barney ultimately receives his B*Bot ‘Ron’, it is not at all like the others. Being unable to download the software, the Ron ‘thinks’ for himself and ultimately teaches Barney what it means to be a true friend. Processing everything he sees and reacting to situations through unprogrammed deductions, Ron reflects the true purpose of ‘his’ invention. This glitch is ultimately an eye-opener for Barney who comes to realise that friendship isn’t one-sided – it isn’t ‘all about him’.
There are so many aspects covered by this animation with messages for children as well as adults, making it a worthwhile trip to the cinema. “We all hope our best friends will be carbon copies of ourselves,” states Julie Lockhart – producer of ‘Ron’s Gone Wrong’ and president of Locksmith Animation in the film’s production notes. “They’ll like what we like, think everything we do is perfect… but, in reality close friendships can be messy and confusing.”
“Your heart breaks,” adds co-director Sarah Smith [‘when your child comes home and says ‘I didn’t have anyone to play with today’.] “But now they face the pressures of social media too, making it even harder.” She adds in the production notes (with reference to ‘Her’ mentioned above): “Kids are so immersed in the online experience and they have no filter. They don’t get a sense that maybe that’s not a reliable voice or that something else may be going on.”
It’s so easy for me to get carried away and mention many more aspects, but if I do it will detract from your experience… however, I would love to receive your feedback! Please comment… I was fabulous to receive your opinions on No Time to Die.
Starring the voices of:
Zach Galifianakis (B*Bot Ron); Jack Dylan Grazer (Barney Pudowski); Olivia Colman (Ron’s Bulgarian grandmother – Donka); Ed Helms (Barney’s dad – Graham); Justice Smith (Bubble CEO – Marc Wydell); Rob Delaney (Andrew Morris, Bubble COO)