Ron’s Gone Wrong Synopsis: 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 friendship.
Unceremoniously hitting theaters as another disregarded byproduct of the Disney-Fox merger, Ron’s Gone Wrong serves as the latest kid-centric effort to tackle the ever-expanding world of social media. Directors Sarah Smith and Jean-Philippe Vine spearhead the first creation from Locksmith Animation – a studio that has already endured tumultuous transformation before their debut feature (Smith has already left Locksmith, while their animation deal has shifted from Fox to Warner Brothers).
All of the post-production disarray feels completely absent from Ron’s spirited final product. While it won’t rival the storied pantheon of other animated giants, Ron’s Gone Wrong balances breezy entertainment and timely themes with enough affectionate warmth.
Ron’s Gone Wrong may not be the first feature to deconstruct social media’s vast grasp for younger viewers (The Mitchells vs. The Machines approached similar subject matter) – but Smith and Peter Baynham’s screenplay discovers its own articulate lane. Don’t let the film’s bouncy slapstick energy deceive you. The tandem uses its friendly chromatic units to ruminate on social media’s nefarious, business-centric practices. Smith and Baynham also mine plenty of satirical barbs while still effectively educating younger viewers about the need for media literacy. Cyberbullying, quantifying friendship through follower counts, and obsessive tech use weaves into the narrative framework with enough genuine goodwill.
While treading familiar ground (a oddball buddy friendship is nothing new to family films), this energized feature discovers a charming frequency for audiences to log into. Jack Dylan Grazer and Zach Galifianakis’s easy-going comedic zip make for a winning pair as the loner teen Barney and his glitched AI Ron. The duo’s affectionate rapport and evolving friendship surpass conventions through surprisingly deft character-driven beats. I appreciate that Ron doesn’t embrace the zany relentlessness of similarly busy family offerings, with the film’s gentle pace steadily building toward a well-earned, feel-good conclusion.
For a feature that’s rarely unpleasant, Ron’s Gone Wrong oddly doesn’t linger long after the credits. The heaping of familiar mechanics hurt Barney’s coming-of-age milieu from generating much dramatic gravity. His predictable highs and lows come and go without developing a character that surpasses generic protagonist pleasantness. Ron’s offbeat presence conjures a similar case of deja vu, while the animation’s colorful pop lags behind the immersive detail of its big-budgeted peers. It’s also bizarre to see Disney continue to tinker in post-production with these Fox-acquired features. Similar to Free Guy, awkward brand tie-ins only work to distract from the film’s creative energy.
Aside from occasional lags, Ron’s Gone Wrong finds plenty of Saturday matinee fun from its earnest affability. I hope this is the start of a promising run for Locksmith Animations.
Ron’s Gone Wrong is now playing in theaters.
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