Ron’s Gone Wrong: Zach Galifianakis Brings Depth to an A.I. Friendship

AbraxasOctober 9, 2021

Although Ron’s Gone Wrong starts as a simple concept, the animated feature ends up being an intriguing film about friendship in the digital era.

The first film from Locksmith Animation, Ron’s Gone Wrong starts with a relatively basic idea, brought to life with a strong cast and solid animation. But as the film progresses, it — much like its title character — reveals a far depth visually and narratively and proves to be a joyful experience from directors Jean-Philippe Vine, Sarah Smith, and Octavio E. Rodriguez.

Ron’s Gone Wrong focuses on Barney (Jack Dylan Grazer), a quiet and lonely middle schooler living in a world defined by online connections. While Barney’s peers at school — including the influencer-in-training Savanah (Kylie Cantrall) and bullying prankster Rich (Ricardo Hurtado) — have B-Bots (personalized robot assistant/best friends), Barney’s family cannot afford one. His poor father Graham (Ed Helms) and old-country grandmother Donka (Olivia Colman) try to convince him he doesn’t need a bot. Eventually, Graham buys a back-alley version of a B-Bot, dubbed Ron (Zach Galifianakis). However, Ron is disconnected from the programming that B-Bots share and acts as a far more singular and strange friend to Barney.

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Ron's Gone Wrong

This premise sets up the first half of Ron’s Gone Wrong, which doesn’t appear to be anything special. The film goes through some basic “unlikely friendship” beats. As Barney and Ron go from bickering to inseparable, Barney begins to understand the true meaning of friendship. It’s not bad in any real way, but neither does it stand out as groundbreaking. But then the second half of the film kicks in, which reveals that Ron’s unique personality can spread to other B-Bots. Soon, chaos descends not just on the school but the entire town. As the B-Bot creator Marc (Justice Smith) tries to understand what makes Ron special, his ruthless business partner Andrew (Rob Delaney) wants to destroy Ron.

A film that initially seemed content to tell an “unlikely friends” story begins to tackle questions about over-exposure to the internet and how that affects genuine connection. Its engagement with how companies monitor social activity is terrifying. Ron’s Gone Wrong even grapples with the concept of artificial intelligence learning and impacting the friendship algorithm that Marc spent years trying to crack. It’s wild, and that’s not even touching on the film’s action-packed third act. Throughout the film, the cast remains firmly planted within these characters, with almost every character (save the one-note Donka and Andrew, still played with gusto by Colman and Delaney) revealing depth and nuance.

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Ron's Gone Wrong Zach Galifianakis

Ron’s Gone Wrong takes some unique diversions along the way that make it far more compelling than it may seem on the surface. Like Ron himself, there’s a wealth of ideas hiding in the film just under its bright and bubbly surface. The film’s relatively basic animation style gives way to both visually impressive sequences set in the woods and the deceptive emotional power of Ron’s “dots for a face” way of conveying emotion. Galifianakis is an unsurprising highlight, hiding many of his distinct vocal tics but imbuing Ron with an ever-present joyful temperament that still finds ways to portray different parts of Ron’s arc.

Ron’s Gone Wrong is, much like this year’s other surprise cinematic dissertation on free will Free Guy, unafraid to tackle some heady concepts but does so with a consistent sense of humor and heart that never becomes too distracting. What starts as a movie you’d expect to know every twist to transcends into something far more interesting.

Ron’s Gone Wrong, starring Zach Galifianakis, Jack Dylan Grazer, Olivia Colman, Ed Helms, Justice Smith, Rob Delaney, and Kylie Cantrall, comes to theaters Oct. 22

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