Movies

This Defective Robot Will Capture Your Heart

Movie Review:

Ron’s Gone Wrong (2021)

Rating: 7.5 out of 10 stars

Overview

Pros

  • Good animation
  • Relatable main character
  • The movie has a message about friendship that is worth hearing
  • Brave ending

Cons

  • Kind of generic storyline, at least at first
  • The music was not memorable
  • Was really good, but not quite on par with similar movies such as Big Hero 6

Observations

  • It didn’t treat people’s reliance on technology as wholly bad or wholly good, but rather supported the idea that it could be either depending on how the technology is used
  • The movie did take a stronger stance on social media use by children, thoroughly demonstrating its negative effects.

Warning: Spoilers Below!

Review and Reflection

Ron’s Gone Wrong is a 2021 animated film by Locksmith Animation, and happens to be the first feature film from that studio. I was impressed by the animation and style of this movie, especially since it is an early work from a relatively new studio.

The main character from this movie is called Barney, which unfortunately for me summons up a mental image of a purple dinosaur. I guess my generation is likely to have that association.

Barney is the only kid without a b-bot at his school. B-bots are social media robots that follow their user around and help them make friends with those that are considered matches. Matches are determined by shared interests and similar personalities. Because Barney doesn’t have a b-bot, he is ostracized and mocked by his classmates.

Now, I kind of get this because I did not get a cellphone until my late teens, in a time when everyone seemed to have a personal phone. The difference with me was that I had no desire for one. I was a cyber school student, and in cyber school the most popular people tended to be the self-described nerds, believe it or not. Anyone who didn’t try or bullied others or flaunted authority was generally disliked because they made things harder for everyone else. Extroverted, smart people were appreciated the most, especially due to the large amount of group work and group projects. We didn’t use video for our classes and didn’t even have pictures of ourselves, so cyber school was a kind of leveling ground. No one knew who was “hot” and who was not. Why is this relevant? Well, it meant having the newest of the new for cellphones was not something that was highly valued or even noticed. I got through fine with no social media and no cellphone until late high school, and barely noticed their absence.

Not to say there is anything particularly wrong with having a cell phone or social media. I was just the weird indifferent kid. To be fair, I wasn’t super social in high school anyway, so it might have mattered more if I was an extrovert.

Enough about me. So, Barney doesn’t have a b-bot. His classmates either mock him or act in a semi-polite way that stops well short of friendship. For instance, Savannah uses a filter to get him out of her live stream, and even though she is super polite about it, it is clear that his presence is undesirable.

Adults including his father, grandmother, and a teacher, pressure him into interacting with his peers even while they shun him. A teacher tries to convince them to talk about one of Barney’s old interests: rocks. He is treated by the adults like he is an elementary school student rather than a middle school student.

I also found this extremely relatable. As a kid, I was an introvert whose hobbies were primarily writing and reading, which are not typically social activities. Furthermore, I was bullied on numerous occasions, and that made me reluctant to go out there and try to make friends. When I was pushed to do so, whether it was by my kindergarten teacher, one of my parents, a coach, or any of many Sunday School teachers, it just made me uncomfortable, and I retreated even further from social interaction.

So Barney, I get it. I really do.

It’s his birthday, but instead of getting a b-bot like he has wanted for so long, he gets other presents that are too young for him, or at least outside the scope of his current interests. Recognizing his disappointment, his father and grandmother are determined to get him a b-bot. They are so determined, they buy him a broken one off the back of a truck after being told there are wait times of a few months for a new one.

The one that Barney gets is defective, cannot connect to the network, and has all its safety features disabled. While at first this makes him want to send him back to the store, Barney is won over when the b-bot saves him from bullies.

What follows is a sequence of events that shows what friendship is all about. Barney gives conflicting advice about friendship to the b-bot, who is nicknamed Ron based on the first part of his model number. He tells him friendship is a two-way street, but continues to act like Ron is the one who needs to be a good friend, and like Barney can do whatever he wants.

Barney says that friends have to like all the same things and basically has the same interests. But Ron likes electricity more than anything Barney likes. He’s different. It’s interesting to see that the huge reliance on social media has changed how the children view friendship. As the movie goes on, Barney sees that friends do not have to like all the same things, and that arguments and tension can be a part of a healthy friendship. This is a strong and sincere message that I was definitely able to appreciate.

When the bully Rich uses Ron to unlock his own b-bot’s safety features, the rest of the school follows suit and disaster ensues. Savannah is “eaten” and “pooped out” by a monster made up of b-bots, and becomes famous on social media as “poop girl.” Her social life is essentially ruined. This demonstrates the power of social media to screw with people’s lives, and how merciless people can be online.

The company that made the b-bots becomes increasingly concerned with the rogue b-bot Ron, and one of the managers intends to destroy him. They go to extreme lengths including using b-bots to spy on people. This highlights the concern that many people have that smart devices are being used to spy on people.

The creator of the b-bots is fascinated with Ron, but wrongfully believes he needs fixed. After Ron’s bugs are fixed, he no longer has the same personality, and Barney is horrified. He has to go to the cloud to find the backup of Ron’s programming. The reason the ending is brave is because Ron’s programming is dispersed to all of the b-bots to change the world. Barney never gets Ron back, but is able to make long-lasting friendships with his peers instead. And all the b-bots are now “defective,” programmed to act like real friends rather than like miniature versions of their own. I felt like it was a brave choice not to have Ron make a comeback at the end. Audiences are so used to character death being impermanent that it stuck out as a more original ending.

Overall, it was a good kids movie that adults might get a kick out of, too.

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