Animated Antic’s review published on Letterboxd:
Back in 2011, Aardman Animations released an animated film called "Arthur Christmas". It was the story of the youngest son of Santa Claus named Arthur desperately racing from the North Pole to a little girl's home trying to deliver a present after his father missed her house. It was a very sweet animated film and had a lot of overall charm to it that made it a fun holiday film. Almost ten years later, the filmmakers behind that film have now opened up a new animation studio named Locksmith Animation and have now released their debut film "Ron's Gone Wrong", a film I was eagerly looking forward to due to the funny premise and cute themes. Unfortunately, this film didn't click with me as much as I wanted it to. I think it had the right ideas as the film has the right pieces to be great and there are elements I did enjoy, but I found the execution was slightly messy and needed a lot of work much like the titular protagonist himself. It's an overall okay film, but I expected a lot more out of it.
The technology company Bubble led by CEO Mark Weidell (Justice Smith) has unveiled a brand new device named the B-Bot which will become a robotic buddy to its users and know everything about them through their social media information and the internet. Everyone at the Nonsuch Middle School has gotten one, all except for Barney Patowski (Jack Dylan Grazer). Barney has been having trouble fitting in at school with his peers mostly ignoring or mocking him. When his busy father (Ed Helms) and grandmother (Olivia Coleman) notice how lonely he is and how everyone else has a B-Bot, they set out to acquire one only to discover that they are really hard to acquire. They eventually manage to get one for Barney despite having fallen out of a truck for his birthday, but Barney soon discovers that this model named Ron (Zach Galifianakis) is defective having not gotten all of his code from Bubble. Barney tries to take him back, but he soon discovers that Ron is quite useful since he scares off some bullies which other B-Bots can't do, and plans to keep it. However, Bubble's co-CEO Andrew Morris (Rob Delaney) soon discovers about Ron and sets out to try to retrieve him not wanting to hurt the company's stock.
For some reason, this film didn't click with me as much as I wanted it to. I don't know what it was since the film really had a lot of the right ingredients to make a fun new animated film, but the magic in this film didn't work with me. I think it mainly came down to the execution of the story which is probably my biggest problem with the film. I do think that the story of the film is actually pretty good as it has some funny ideas with Ron and Barney and the themes of friendships and dangers of technology companies are really relevant and I do think they are good for children, but I think the overall execution of the ideas was not as polished as it could be. It's so odd that despite the film being written by the same duo behind "Arthur Christmas", this film doesn't really have the same magic touch and clever script. In fact, the screenplay for this film was not well written which is ultimately what doomed the film. A lot of the dialogue said by the characters is mostly either expository, explanatory, or generic. We see the characters talk a lot about how they feel about what they're seeing with every detail on what we were seeing being explained to the audience and it was kind of frustrating. I do think that the smaller moments between Barney and Ron are not bad with a clever touch being Barney being afraid of the dark as he sleeps with his lamp on, but once the power goes out Ron learns this and glows to help Barney. Stuff like that was cute and showed the screenplay's potential, but it was sadly lessened later when we see Barney talk about why he's afraid of the dark and talking about how scared he is to be alone and it's a little frustrating. It also doesn't help that the film's themes in the film were handled a lot better in other animated films from this year. I do think the ideas behind the dangers of technology which "The Mitchells Vs. The Machines" briefly tackled are really good and I think the film does an okay job with showing it, but the themes of friendship and the tale of a lonely outsider being shown the light by others was handled way better in "Luca". I was thinking of the latter film a lot watching this movie especially with the scenes where Ron and Barney bonded together and how they helped out other kids that felt alone, but I didn't get the same joy and happiness that I got watching Luca, Alberto, and Giulia trying to win the race mainly because the screenplay wasn't well written as the dialogue felt exceptionally contrived, especially near the end of the film with Barney's dad and grandmother. This leads me into talking about the characters who are also not as well fleshed out as they could be. Barney isn't exactly a compelling protagonist. I normally connect with lonely, outsider characters trying to fit in with others, but he just didn't have a lot of interesting personality behind him. He has traits like having asthma and also being afraid of the dark, but they're not as fully realized like they could be since he doesn't really do much throughout the film except try not to get Ron caught. He felt very shallow and standard and was like a blank canvas. The other kids Barney interacts with are not any better and come off like middle school stereotypes from a popular girl constantly live-streaming her life, a bully doing pranks on people, a gamer trying to break high scores, and a nerd who likes science but also doesn't fit in. These characters felt so shallow and standard. The worst character is easily Andrew Morris who is a one-dimensional villain trying to find Ron and restore in a desperate measure to keep the company afloat but doesn't come across as menacing or freighting with the only unique trait about him being that his character design resembles Apple CEO, Tim Cook. Ron's father Graham is also kind of boring mainly since he's a workaholic father too busy for his son as he's trying to sell weird knick-knacks on the internet and there's not much to say about it. I did find his grandmother Donka a little fun due to her being Soviet and Olivia Coleman having fun playing her, but she wasn't in the film as much as I wanted. Though the one character who does shine brightly though is Ron. He was a lot of fun as he was basically Baymax if he was constantly on low battery mode and Zack Galifianakis really makes him fun and sweet to be around. Even his growth at the end of the film felt earned and I did admire that. I just wished the other characters around him could've worked with that. I also thought the animation was decent as I did admire the landscapes and the colorful designs of the B-Bots though I do think it could've been a bit polished as there was one shot that didn't look finished as a character stood out among the background and didn't blend in with the grass. I do think it should've been looked over more carefully.
And I think "Ron's Gone Wrong" is a film that had the right ingredients but needed better polish. While the animation was nice and the story had its charm, the latter and the characters needed a bit of work. I'm sad this film didn't click with me as it should, but I certainly don't think it's bad. It's an overall okay animated film and I'm sure some people and kids will enjoy it, but I personally think it could've been better. I am very eagerly looking forward to whatever Locksmith Animation does next and hope they get their foot on the right path because I certainly know they'll have a great future in this decade with animated films.