Oh, 20th Century Studios. Only Free Guy was your only big hit this year. It's tragic that a movie that has countless references to Disney properties such as the MCU and Star Wars did so well, other original movies produced by 20th Century Studios were basically ignored thanks to its non-existing marketing. This year alone saw the releases of The Last Duel, The French Dispatch, West Side Story, and here we're talking about Ron's Gone Wrong. As these movies were directed by acclaimed directors, Ron's Gone Wrong is the first (and quite possibly the last as they're now moving to Warner Bros.) animated movie produced under a new animation studio, Locksmith Productions under the 20th Century banner. It's a shame that Disney never tried to sell this movie unlike their other animated properties from different productions (Pixar, Walt Disney Animation) because not only is this movie surprisingly great but it also has this genuine feel-good aspect, Disney movies have been sorely missing these days.
The plot revolves around Barney Pudowski (voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer), a young middle-school kid who's having difficulty fitting in with his friends as they now have new companions in the form of an adorable if not personal robot called B-Bot. His parents saw his plight of having no friends, buy him a new B-Bot only for him to discover that this B-Bot is glitchy and defective (earlier it fell out of the truck). This robot nicknamed Ron (voiced by a terrific Zach Galifianakis) might have trouble understanding Barney's words; some of them literally while sometimes even abstractly with hilarious results. However, even with his malfunctioning ways, he finds his way into Barney's heart and in the process, both find themselves improving as they get to be friends in the most charming way.
The movie works well for both kids and adults as they have lots of things to say about how kids these days are addicted to social media, and the devices they use could lead to a growing distance between close friends even if they're nearby. This also helps that the core point about this movie is the strong friendship formed between Ron and Barney; It's not new to be fair as it has been done in countless other movies but this movie has a message about how each of the friends' flaws leads to hilarious interactions and eventually create a strong bond. It also has a satirical edge about the big tech's predatory nature of using kids as profit churning numbers.
...The goofy slapstick can be fun for the kids but there are some jokes and references which adults would understand and even throw some mean-spirited jokes along the way...
But it's the humor that is the strongest part of this movie. The goofy slapstick can be fun for the kids but there are some jokes and references which adults would understand and even throw some mean-spirited jokes along the way. The funniest stretch is where the creators of the B-Bot have an interview and they talk about the success of their product but when they're asked a difficult question about the B-Bot safety, the reactions are hilarious. It also has Ron do stuff that sounds so wrong, it's darkly humorous like how he approaches an old lady, a conspiracy theory-loving biker, and even kidnaps a baby, all of them to become Barney's friend. Also because Ron's safety settings have not been uploaded, some kids misuse it for pranks, buying in-store downloadable content with no parental restrictions, and even hit kids in the process, some of these gags have a payoff that itself becomes a gag of its own, it's surprisingly funny. There's also another funny running gag involving Ron mistakenly calling Barney, "Absalom" in a confused tone because when Barney himself exclaims that name with confusion, Ron goes along with it. Side characters like Barney's family, his father Graham (voiced by Zach Galifianikis' Hangover co-star Ed Helms), and his grandmother Donda (voiced by a hilariously riotous Olivia Colman), his ex-friends Rich, Savannah, and the creators of the B-Bot (voiced by Rob Delaney and Justice Smith) all share some solid moments.
Ron's Gone Wrong also has some dramatic heft with some moments feeling genuinely heartfelt, I admit I teared up a bit. The ending, while it does feel like it's just added into an additional 3rd act, still has a moving resolution where a character sacrifices for the greater good of everyone. The scene preceding the 3rd act however functions better as the ending as it shows what lengths a dying friend would do if another is in danger themselves. That's just my nitpick for this movie though as it reminded me of the good old days of Dreamworks animated properties like Shrek 1 & 2, the trilogies of Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda, and How To Train Your Dragon. It's a shame this did not do well at the box office, but as it's now available on Disney+, I hope it gets a second chance. Cause we need friends like Ron, malfunctioning or not.