Animated Ron’s Gone Wrong skewers social media but fails to provide a solution
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Ron’s Gone Wrong, the new animated film from 20th Century Studios playing in theaters, begins with the question “Have you ever felt completely alone?” In the movie, the solution to loneliness is to get a B-bot—a personal robot friend who connects kids with other kids. But B-bots exacerbate Barney’s (Jack Dylan Grazer) loneliness because he’s the only student at his middle school who doesn’t have one. Barney’s father succumbs to social pressure and buys Barney a B-bot, but there’s something wrong with Barney’s new B-bot “Ron” (Zach Galifianakis).
Ron malfunctions and won’t do the things that B-bots are supposed to do. He even attacks a bully at Barney’s school. Since Ron’s friendship programming doesn’t work, the B-bot cobbles together his own programming for how to be a friend. In the end, Barney and all his friends at school learn a lesson about what friendship really means.
Ron’s Gone Wrong means well, but ultimately the film itself goes wrong. Too much of the plot seems derivative. Barney and Ron struck me as an unlikable version of Hiro and Baymax from Big Hero 6. The film critiques our hyperconnected society, but Ron’s Gone Wrong doesn’t follow through on its promise. We see parents addicted to phones, kids obsessed with likes, and people left more alone in a supposedly connected world. But the movie ends with a muddled remedy for our ills. If we democratize and decentralize tech, will everything really be OK?
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