- Dirs: Sarah Smith, J.P Vine; Voice cast: Zach Galifianakis, Jack Dylan Grazer, Olivia Colman, Ed Helms, Justice Smith, Rob Delaney, Kylie Cantrall, PG cert, 107 min
Ron’s Gone Wrong is a perfect title – oddly poetic for a family animation about a failing robot which, perversely, helps an 11-year-old grasp the true meaning of friendship. Friendship is not, after all, unboxing a shiny new toy and having it install everything it can find out about you, so that an avaricious tech corporation can monetise your very being. It’s not the latest-generation iPhone pinging in your hand.
Call these crude lessons for screen-addicted viewers of whatever age, but the film delivering them is anything but. Visualised with verve, it’s a zingy, mercilessly funny satire on how devices, with their ever-so-friendly interfaces, have in fact become our despots. Virtually Black Mirror for children, but pushing witty mockery instead of apocalyptic despair, it’s worth catching in a cinema, so the paradox of beholding it on a tablet doesn’t make your head spin.
Ron’s Gone Wrong begins with the Apple-esque “Bubble Company” unveiling a new line of knee-high droid companions called B-bots, which are R2D2-sized glowing capsules with tiny wheels. These things can be used as skateboards, and are infinitely customisable to your exact tastes, which they already know. “Downloading friendship” comes up when you imprint a palm.
They’re expressly designed for kids, and the rollout goes so well that every student at the film’s suburban middle school has one cheeping by their side. Well, except one: the hapless Barney, voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer, who finds himself socially outcast for being so blatantly off-trend. His dad Graham (Ed Helms) is a widowed salesman of novelty toys without the cash to splash, and his maternal grandma Donka (a hilarious Olivia Colman) is a massive Russian crone of peasant stock. An indomitable kitchen warrior who stomps around beheading chickens, she understands nothing of the modern world.
For Barney, home is tripe soup at the table; traumatic memories of piñatas stuffed with offal at birthdays past; and a rock collection, which the cool kids mock relentlessly. Graham at last takes pity on this tragic, robotless child. His budget won’t stretch to a top-of-the-line B-bot, but what’s this? A beaten-up one that fell off the back of a truck? Tape it up, and that will do.
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