Review: What ‘Ron’s Gone Wrong’ gets right

“Ron’s Gone Wrong” is a computer-animated, family-friendly comedy about the benefits and pitfalls of social media in the form of a mobile, artificial intelligence buddy that befriends a lonely child and social outcast.

"Ron's Gone Wrong" is playing at the Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter and the Sunset Cinema in Jenkins. Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch

BAXTER — What could go wrong with something that is powered by a computer?

As anyone who has owned and operated an electronic device with a computer chip inside knows, plenty can go wrong and “Ron’s Gone Wrong” gets that right.

The new release playing at the Lakes 12 Theatre in Baxter is a computer-animated, family-friendly sci-fi comedy geared toward children who have grown up in the Facebook age.

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Zach Galifianakis from “The Hangover” trilogy stars as a malfunctioning B*bot, a robotic buddy and digitally-connected device that befriends an awkward and lonely boy voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer, who played Eddie Kaspbrak in the feature film adaptation of Stephen King's "It" in 2017.


A bunch of the B*bot’s programming code is missing from the unit, which fell out of a delivery truck and was sold to the child’s father and his grandmother when they arrive at a closed store.

Galifianakis voices the perpetually chipper, totally naive, unfiltered artificial intelligence that has no safety controls — much like the bearded man-child Galifianakis became known for in “The Hangover” trilogy, a raunchy comedy in which he often referred to himself as a “lone wolf.”

The B*bot is intended to help its child owners make friends and connect to the internet. Barney Pudowski’s former childhood friends, Savannah Meades, Rich Belcher, Noah and Ava have all B*bots. Grazer plays with sweetness and melancholy.


Pudowski rechristens the glitchy and defective B*bot Ron, an abbreviated version of the robot’s serial code or model number, and the pair go on an adventure eluding the law and corporate honchos that make B*bots, with the intent on laying their hands on the fast-becoming friends.

Ron is advertised as a “Best Friend Out of the Box” but the malfunctioning gets into all sorts of trouble reminiscent of the “Gremlins,” a comedy-horror movie from 1984 written by Chris Columbus, or “Short Circuit,” a sci-fi comedy from 1986 co-starring Ally Sheedy.

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The PG-rated “Ron’s Gone Wrong” runs almost two hours long and features as one might expect sight gags and slapstick comedy but is also surprisingly critical of social media and today’s generation’s obsession with it, and the dangers associated with being self-centered.


For example, Ron somehow grabs a hold of a meat cleaver and goes berserk in the Pudowski family kitchen, chopping his way through, and throws the potentially deadly kitchen utensil and narrowly misses the boy’s grandmother Donka, played by Olivia Colman.

"Ron's Gone Wrong" is a computer-animated sci-fi children's comedy starring the voices of Jack Dylan Grazer and Zach Galifianakis as a socially awkward and lonely middle-schooler and a malfunctioning robot buddy, respectively. Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch

"Maybe turn it off and on again?" Donka tells her grandson.

The children’s film deserves credit for exploring the sometimes complicated subject of friendship, and the movie’s screenplay illustrates in vibrant color that the friendship between Pudowski and Ron is not without its challenges and that both learn and grow during its course.

“Maybe turn it off and on again?”

— Donka

“Ron’s Gone Wrong” was distributed by 20th Century Studios and serves as the company's first animated film to be released since the closure of Blue Sky Studios in April, the film studio which was a subsidiary of 20th Century and was behind the popular “Ice Age” children’s movies.

“Ron’s Gone Wrong” currently holds a 79% approval rating among critics and a 94% approval rating among audiences at Rotten Tomatoes, a review-aggregation website for film and television.


The audience consensus reads: “‘Ron's Gone Wrong’ is light-hearted family fun with cute characters, silly humor, and a heartwarming story — plus a timely message that's worth talking about after the credits roll.”

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at . Follow him on Twitter at .

I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write articles for the Wadena Pioneer Journal weekly newspaper owned by Forum Communications Co.
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