This malfunctioning android has the right iOS once you get to know him.
I met Zach Galifianakis just as he was beginning to make a name for himself, coming on his hilarious success in “The Hangover.” But as his career was taking off, he’s proven to us he’s more than just Alan Garner with the Oscar-winning “Birdman” and the political comedy “The Campaign.”
Given his status, he was also capable of being an animated character by voicing supporting roles in “Puss in Boots,” “The Lego Batman Movie,” and the under-appreciated stop-motion comedy “Missing Link,” which bombed at the box office, but won the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature. Moviegoers didn’t know what a good thing they had with “Missing Link.”
Now, in his fourth animated feature “Ron’s Gone Wrong,” Galifianakis has fun with the notion of a malfunctioning android, who’s literal with his company’s protocols or what his owner wants, even though he was literally dropped on his head. This walking and talking android is actually called a Bubble Bot or B-bot for short, and calls himself Ron, because it’s part of his UPC code.
These B-bots are designed to reflect on their owner’s personalities, and have digital faces of cats, monkeys, masked wrestlers, or even Darth Vader. Once opened and registered, they come in various colors, and when connected together, they can even form giant figures. Ron looks like Baymax had a baby, and he looks fun and silly.
“Ron’s Gone Wrong” begs comparison with another A.I. animated movie of its kind released this year “The Mitchells vs. The Machines,” and it lacks the powerful aspects of “Wall-E,” but as a cartoon for kids and adults, it’s often funny and touching, reflecting on the differences between social media and socializing. It’s not consumed by technology like the 2014 “Annie” was, and it’s wiser and more colorful than older audiences would judge the next generation of kids. I, myself, am worried about where today’s kids would head into if they don’t know their past, but I’m still confident there are those willing to learn about VHS or Laserdisc.
Fresh off his success with first voice role in Disney/Pixar’s “Luca,” Jack Dylan Grazer has another voice role, also produced by Disney with the lame 20th Century Studios name. He speaks for the lonely middle-schooler Barney, who has yet to own a B-bot, until his novelty salesman dad (voiced by Ed Helms) and foreigner grandmother (voiced by Olivia Colman) find Ron. He becomes the boy’s belated birthday present, and he has to learn how to be his best friend.
Of course, we have to go to the Bubble company, where the CEO Andrew Morris (voiced by Rob Delaney) cares about money and thinks Ron is a threat, while the co-creator Marc (voiced by Justice Smith) just wanted to bring friends together socially. Both Ron and Barney becomes the targets of the company’s hunt.
And Barney’s classmates also include his crush Savannah (voiced by Kylie Cantrall), who gets humiliated by a B-bot trick gone wrong, and Rich (voiced by Ricardo Hurtado), who loves live-streaming his bullying towards Barney. I like how they end up being better people than the intro explains.
“Ron’s Gone Wrong” was co-written and co-directed by Sarah Smith, who also made the inventive “Arthur Christmas” a decade ago. Here, she and co-director Jean-Phillippe Vine and co-writer Peter Baynham all give the boy and his bot a sense and purpose for their mismatched connection, while providing the laughs and upgrades.
I’ve already mentioned how comical Galfianakis is as Ron, but the voice work from Grazer, Smith, Helms, and Colman are also charming and good-natured. Even Delaney has fun as an antagonist, who wants security cameras to find Barney and Ron in the woods, since they’re hiding there, and there aren’t any cameras to begin with. And Cantrall and Hurtado are both likable as the classmates.
I’ve made the right choice of skipping “The Addams Family 2” and the “Monster Family 2: Nobody’s Perfect,” because I deserve to see kids animated features that know how to charm both age groups with a better attitude. “Ron’s Gone Wrong” isn’t “Wall-E,” but it’s also not “Bicentennial Man.” It’s bright and funny.
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