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Fun, funny, family film 4 Stars

The team behind Ron’s Gone Wrong are seasoned pros, with co-director Sarah Smith having produced the dark comedic delights of The League of Gentleman and directed the underrated Arthur Christmas, which she co-wrote with Ron writer Peter Baynham, the man who also wrote for the Borat character and the legendary Alan Partridge (played by Steve Coogan), which Sarah Smith also worked on. Co-director Octavio D. Rodriguez, among other credits, served as story editor on multiple episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and fellow co-director Jean-Phillippe Vice directed episodes of the Shaun the Sheep series and served as story editor artist on Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur and Inside Out. In short, their pedigree is impressive.

Knowing the British pedigree behind this film might explain why the humor, visual gags, and verbal sparring worked so well for me. But Ron’s Gone Wrong is also quite difference from the dark comedy those IMDb examples might suggest. They’ve applied their comedic wiles to this children’s tale with insight and heart and I really wish it had performed better at the box office. Hopefully, it will find its audience at home, and it comes highly recommended.

Ron's Gone Wrong (2021)
Released: 22 Oct 2021
Rated: PG
Runtime: 107 min
Director: Sarah Smith, Jean-Philippe Vine, Octavio E. Rodriguez
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Cast: Jack Dylan Grazer, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms
Writer(s): Peter Baynham, Sarah Smith
Plot: The story of Barney, an awkward middle-schooler and Ron, his new walking, talking, digitally-connected device. Ron's malfunctions set against the backdrop of the social media age launch them on a journey to learn about true friendshi
IMDB rating: 7.1
MetaScore: 65

Disc Information
Studio: Disney
Distributed By: Disney
Video Resolution: 2160p HEVC w/HDR
Aspect Ratio: 2.39.1
Audio: Dolby Atmos, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Rating: PG
Run Time: 1 Hr. 47 Min.
Package Includes: UHD, Blu-ray, Digital Copy
Case Type: Standard 4k with sleeve
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 12/07/2021
MSRP: $29.99

The Production: 4/5

“It’s Mad Max meets Sesame Street, live streaming.”

When Tech. giant Bubble launches its new B-bot product, an ingenious robotic device that imprints with the knowledge of an individual child to become their life-long friend, the world embraces the innovative technology. These devices consume every bit of data there is about a child-their social media existence, all their likes and loves and hobbies and habits-to become the best friend that child could ever possibly hope for. And soon, every child has one. Poor Barney, however, is the only kid in his school that doesn’t have one, and he feels like an outcast.

On his birthday, a day no-one at school seems to remember, he holds out hope that his dad, seller of old-school novelty devices, and his Bulgarian grandmother, Donka (who lives with them) have made his wish of owning a B-bot come true. But he goes to bed disappointed. Knowing they’ve let Barney down; his father and grandmother try to buy Barney the toy he most wants but discover there’s a 3-month waiting list. While they’re unable to buy him one, they do manage to secure one – one that fell, literally, off the back of a truck – and when Barney wakes the next day, his dream has come true. Sort of. Barney’s new B-bot, whom he names Ron, is damaged, doesn’t respond properly, can’t connect to the mainframe, and is more than a little off. Chaos ensues and a journey of mayhem, friendship, and connection has just begun.

Ron’s Gone Wrong is filled with lighthearted joy and charm, a delightfully playful and heartfelt examination on what it means to have authentic connections while warning of the dangers of looking for approval in the wrong places. It’s not particularly heavy-handed in its messaging, but it is direct, and that works well for this feature. Directed by Sarah Smith, Jean-Phillippe Vice, and Octavio D. Rodriguez, based on a screenplay by Smith and Peter Baynham, Ron’s Gone Wrong skips along with good energy and mounts the humor early on through a mix of slapstick and verbal interplay between Barney, voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer, and Ron, voiced by Zach Galifianakis. Ron’s a fascinating character and Galifianakis, through an, at times understated, restrained, and almost straight-man delivery, captures the perfect pitch for Ron’s innocence and obliviousness, from which a great deal of comedy is born. Grazer captures Barney’s exasperation without tripping into whining, no small feat. Barney’s father, Graham, is voiced by Ed Helms (who was terrific voicing the titular character in 2017’s Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie) and Olivia Coleman voices Donka, and both do very well. Coleman is almost unrecognizable bringing to life the thick-accented and madcap Bulgarian in one of the film’s most entertaining supporting characters. As Marc Weidell, benevolent CEO of Bubble and creator of the B*bots, is Justice Smith (Detective Pikachu), and as his slimy COO, Andrew Morris, is the always excellent Rob Delaney. In fact, the entire voice cast are terrific, including Kylie Cantrall, Ricardo Hurtado, and Marcus Scribner as Barney’s once close friends, Savannah, Rich, and Alex.

When we look at the world today, filled with the highest levels of online connections but what feel like the highest levels of social disconnect and discontent, finding a way to comment on that reality without reprimanding lecturing is no easy feat. Ron’s Gone Wrong manages to thread that needle with yucks and heart aplenty. A warm, gooey center is at the heart of this film, and it isn’t afraid to have fun cracking and crashing its characters humorously along the way. The lessons are valuable, too. The value of real friendship and the dangers of looking for affirmation in the wrong places – social media – aren’t deep but that really doesn’t really. The lessons are well staged and remind us (and hopefully remind our children) that there’s nothing like going offline for real-world fun and that finding more of what’s “out there” in the real world is a necessary pursuit to have better balance.

Ron’s Gone Wrong didn’t perform well at the box office. I can’t say if that was pandemic driven, the result of a low-key and ineffective marketing campaign, or of Disney didn’t have good faith or good intentions with this stepchild animated feature. But I can say the film is entertaining. We watched it as a family and had a fun time. I imagine other families will have just as good a time as we did.

Video: 5/5

3D Rating: NA

Not surprisingly, this animated feature looks spectacular. Bright, brilliantly resolved details are common throughout, but the real power of this image is in the contrasts. The sequence towards the end of the film in the woods at night with B*bots in search mode with red lines scanning the landscape are precision perfect against the dark and gray nighttime forest. The multicolor B*bots, with their custom displays based on their child owner’s preferences bring a delightfully bright sensibility to the film’s canvas, while the crispness of the environs, with thoughtful detail, shadows, and depth, are strong showcases.

The Hight Dynamic Range (HDR) help those colors to pop a little brighter and the dark to resolve a little deeper. Ron’s Gone Wrong has a distinct animated look, but not so stylized that it feels distant, and the grounded environmental details, like night mist and babbling rivers work, bringing a tangible sense. Computer animated feature films rarely disappoint on Blu-ray or 4K, and Ron’s Gone Wrong is no exception. A fine-looking disc.

Audio: 4.5/5

Disney has given us Ron done right with a rambunctious Dolby Atmos audio track for those so equipped. Henry Jackman’s alternately playful and sweet score accompany the events suitably, and use of the surrounds, and quite effective but not complete use of the overheads, add positively to the mix. The track is also heavy in the low frequency effects (LFE), coming from the action and from Jackman’s music. There can be lots going on in support of the action on screen and that’s exemplified in the signature playground sequence where the B*bot’s are unleashed without their core programming (it’s a fun scene and the audio is standout).

Special Features: 1.5/5

While the 4K disc carries none of the special features, the accompanying Blu-ray contains a couple of okay featurettes along with the theatrical trailer. Those who redeem the included digital copy will also be able to access Designing the World of Ron’s Gone Wrong – a short piece about Aurelien Predal’s work designing the look of the film (which is already part of the longer featurette) and a music video for “Sunshine” by Liam Payne.

A Boy and His B*bot: When Jack Met Zach: A conversation between Zack Galifianakis (Ron) and Jack Dylan Grazer (Barney) – less than 4 minutes.

Making Ron Right: A 16+ minute comprehensive featurette, with interviews from the directors and others, about the origins and intent of the film, designing the characters and world, and how they wanted to examine what social media and networks are doing to connections.

 

Overall: 4.5/5

The team behind Ron’s Gone Wrong are seasoned pros, with co-director Sarah Smith having produced the dark comedic delights of The League of Gentleman and directed the underrated Arthur Christmas, which she co-wrote with Ron writer Peter Baynham, the man who also wrote for the Borat character and the legendary Alan Partridge (played by Steve Coogan), which Sarah Smith also worked on. Co-director Octavio D. Rodriguez, among other credits, served as story editor on multiple episodes of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and fellow co-director Jean-Phillippe Vice directed episodes of the Shaun the Sheep series and served as story editor artist on Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur and Inside Out. In short, their pedigree is impressive.

Knowing the British pedigree behind this film might explain why the humor, visual gags, and verbal sparring worked so well for me. But Ron’s Gone Wrong is also quite difference from the dark comedy those IMDb examples might suggest. They’ve applied their comedic wiles to this children’s tale with insight and heart and I really wish it had performed better at the box office.

Hopefully, it will find its audience at home, and it comes highly recommended.

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Published by

Neil Middlemiss

editor

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