By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)
It’s hard not to draw comparisons to Big Hero 6 in Ron’s Gone Wrong. The title character, a B-Bot, is a pill-shaped version of Baymax. This replacement is sleek and stylish and sometimes behaves like a Minion. In this film, no bot is alike because each robot is customized by its owner.
In a world where kids are very glued to social media, owning one of these mechanical wonders to stay ahead is a must. Nearly every child has one, except for Barney (Jack Dylan Grazer). His family can barely make ends meet and he’s a social outcast. This boy had the neighbourhood gang to hang out with before going to the local school became part of the complex equation. As they entered those formative tween years, they drifted apart because everyone has found a clique to belong to. Only his eccentric grandmother notices, and she tries her best to help.
No matter who’s watching this film, the themes explored are very relatable. Barney’s plight will no doubt have everyone think about what friendship is. It’s not about who is cool to hang out with or why we can connect with some people and not others. Nor can it be defined by a complex mathematical equation. The world of ‘Social Media’ defines it as the number of followers and likes, and that’s totally wrong. Andrew Morris (Rob Delaney), the COO of Bubble–a company which is basically Apple and Facebook put together–wants to monetize all that.
The founder and CEO, Marc Weidell (Justice Smith), want to further study this complex social equation known as friendship, and the two are at odds in how to drive the company forward. The latter is like the easy going Steve Wozniak in our world. Weidell could be equated to Tim Cook or Mark Zuckerberg (at his worst, as presented in the film The Social Network). This film pokes fun at the influencer culture (which includes TikTok and Youtubers) and suggests it’s not important to be known on the World Wide Web. In what matters is who can stand up for others when trouble arises.
Though these nuances make up one layer of this story, the true heart lies in how two dissimilar individuals bond. Ron’s eccentric behaviour is a result of a circuit knocked loose instead of faulty programming. What we see is a wonderful tale which includes vintage Steven Spielberg family drama. Because this bot’s original programming never activated, he has to learn from someone and eventually realizes he has to ‘phone home.’
I’m sure chaos theory figures into why they become mates, as the ‘bot keeps on calling the human Absalom. This mechanical wonder develops a punk rock attitude, and it’s hilarious to see him try to integrate with the world. Everything that we expect from a high school film, including bullying is explored, and just how Ron deals deserves that high five.
I appreciate the subtle criticism this film makes about social media and technology. It’s tough to disconnect, and I believe that’s the goal writers Peter Baynham and Sarah Smith (who also directed) had in mind when they developed this film. Thankfully, they have plans for a sequel because I can’t bear to see Ron gone. He went to where no other ‘bot has gone before to spread the word. But at the same time, he has to come home because I’m sure he’s missed by everyone he’s interfaced with.
I can’t wait for the merchandising to pop up! Even a Funko B-bot to customize is fine, otherwise I’d be disappointed.
5 Stars out of 5