Ron’s Gone Wrong starts out with a lot of promise. Imagine a future world where all children had their own B-bots, these little egg-shaped robots with a built in algorithm that could know everything about us just by one simple touch. Their design according to designer Marc Weidell is to help people make friends.
Of course, everything with good intentions always goes wrong. In the fictional California town of Nonsuch, Barney Pudowski, (voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer) 12, is the only kid at his middle school who doesn’t have one. Mainly because his father, Graham (voiced by Ed Helms) and grandmother, Donka (voiced by Olivia Colman) lived in their own eccentric Polish bubble. (Bubble is also the same name as the company who makes B-bots.) They don’t realize that Barney no longer is interested in rocks and not having a B-bot has made him the subject of ridicule and bullying at school, which Graham witnesses.
So, they go to the nearest store to buy Barney a B-bot only to realize that not only is the store closed but they must pre-ordered about three months in advance. Enter a delivery driver who has a damaged B-bot for sale. It does sound a lot of like a Disney-fied version of Child’s Play. Released by 20th Century Studios, which is now owned by the Walt Disney Company, this movie takes a lighter tone on the horror classic in which the doll gets into pranks instead of killing people.
Nicknamed “Ron” because of his serial number, at first, Barney and Ron (voiced by Zack Galifanakis) seem chummy despite Barney noticing a glitch. At school, Ron seems to help Barney out by humiliating his bullies and causing all other B-bots to go haywire. But since we’re all in a social media world, Ron’s exploits begin to spread, causing Andrew Morris, (voiced by Rob Delany), the COO of the Bubble Company, who manufactures B-bots to resort to damage control.
The movie seems to be a casserole mixture of Child’s Play, My Bodyguard and even E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. Unfortunately it lacks the charm of the latter one. And eventually this becomes a movie that goes heavily on an anti-technology rant. This seems to be a constant problem in movies the last 10-15 years where filmmakers want to wag their finger at young kids for relying too much on technology.
This is becoming almost an epidemic with some movies that I immediately lose interest. A lot of 12-year-olds like Barney and his classmates were born in a technology-advanced world, just like middle-schoolers today. When you’ve been raised in a world where pre-schoolers have their own cell phone numbers and accounts on streaming services. And teens are all over TikTok, don’t blame the messenger. Let’s not forget there once was a time in which a lot of parents didn’t care for the likes of Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly or Chuck Berry to name a few. Now, they’re considered legends of music from the same people who scoff at social media.
And as a former latchkey kid Gen Xer myself, I’m wondering where this magical world was where parents lets their kids wander all over creation. Most parents in the 1980s were working so it became imperative we stay either indoors after school or close to home. And some of us didn’t have the luxury of parks and playgrounds down the street. Many of us lived on streets with crotchety neighbors who make Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino look like Mister Rogers. You couldn’t even go pass their house on the sidewalk.
So, if you can stay at home inside, playing Atari, Nintendo and Sega while watching HBO and the Disney Channel (which became very popular in the 1980s) while your parents were at work, then so be it. This anti-technology/anti-social media rant that is becoming more evident in movies is the next “Participation Trophy” paradox. Just as Gen Xers and Millennials didn’t create participation trophies, Gen Zers didn’t create Apple Computers, Facebook or even TikTok. For God’s sake, many Gen Zers’ grandparents weren’t even dating when Apple was created.
The movie leaves the possibility of a sequel open. Considering it received good reviews and about $60 million at the box office, there’s always that possibility. But I would strongly advise the filmmakers to take a different route. Make it more Short Circuit 2. The characters have already been introduced. Give them something more to do.