Featuring The Voices Of Jack Dylan Grazer, Zack Galafanakis, Olivia Coleman, Ed Helms, Rob Delaney, Justice Smith
Directed By: Sarah Smith, Jean-Philippe Vine, and Octavio E Rodriguez
Where I Watched It: Disney Plus
English Audio Description Available?: Yes
Plot: It’s another boy and his robot story. This type of film needs its own genre by now. There’s Barry (Grazer), an outcast in a rather dystopian view of the future, where kids and their connection to social media is so insane that a corporation (yes, presumably evil) has created robots that are even more tapped into the social network, forcing kids into likes, subscribes, and hashtags. Barry’s parents are against getting their kid one of these super expensive toys, but there wouldn’t be a movie if the plot didn’t find a way for Barry to get Ron (Galafanakis) a robot reject with programming unlike any of his counterparts. Has he…gone wrong? Relax, it’s a kids movie, so he doesn’t murder everyone. But that’s another movie already I’m sure.
What Works: Surprisingly, as stupid as is it is, this overdone concept always works. usually because the boy in question is a loner type who desperately needs a friend, and because no one would watch a film about a boy and a rock, we get films where the boy either gets a robot or a dog. And then, an adventure happens, where important life lessons are learned, lives are touched, and everyone is better for it in the end. Seriously, I swear to God, you’ve seen this movie before. i don’t know why a movie so incredibly formulaic needed three directors, but whatever. Yes, this film has heart in some of the right moments. It can be very effective. Can be.
I have to be honest here and say that I had absolutely no idea this was animated before I randomly jumped in. I knew next to nothing about the film. Never saw a trailer. I just knew there was this film, Disney Plus kept pushing it on me, and I believe it was actually released theatrically in October. So I went with it. Sometimes, being blind means you don’t know something is animated.
What Doesn’t Work: So the film sells you on this concept that Ron exists to help make friends for Barry. That explains his wacky behavior, and the whole midsection of the film. As the film evolves, he starts being noticed by other living kids, who have known him all through school. So, Ron starts working.
Spoilers… but it’s why I didn’t like the film. The film builds to this beautiful moment where Ron sacrifices himself to save Barry after an asthma attack in a scene that is so much a facsimile of other films it’s stupid. But it is still effective. Barry is ultimately saved, Ron dies. The end. Right?
no. The film first tries to go for the everything works out in the end moment when the guy who wrote the original code comes to save Ron, which could have then been the ending of the film. Guy fixes Ron. Best friends reunite. Roll credits.
no. The film then decides, fuck it, and we get a corrected version of Ron, without the faulty programming. So he’s like all the other robots. Barry doesn’t recognize his friend, much the same way Eve didn’t recognize Wall-E (Disney is literally ripping off their own movies now), and begs the creator to restore Ron. instead of saying that he couldn’t, or creating some magical moment like Wall-E where Ron wakes up on his own, the movie over complicates itself with 20 more minutes where Barry and his crew break into the headquarters so they can download a backup of Ron back into his robot body.
When we FINALLY get to what could be a solid ending, we once AGAIN, divert into a Ron sacrifice. Ron notices, after being restored, that all off Barry’s classmates are secretly unhappy because all of their robots suck, and are not Ron. So Ron gets Barry to accept that he needs to be sacrificed, again, and uploaded into the cloud so his code can be uploaded to every robot. So all the robots can go wrong.
The problem with this ending is that for a film that is hell bent on teaching us something about social networks, kids staring at their screens, and relying on technology, the film ends with everyone still having a fucking robot. Instead of robot genocide, or just merely a happy ending for Barry, we get a film that ends with an upgrade to all existing robots making them more efficient.
What the hell? I don’t want to teach my kids that they need a robot to help them make friends. They should have had an ending where the kids had to actually socialize with each other without these robots. That’s a message. Instead, the answer was… they just needed friendlier robots. Alexa isn’t the problem, she just needs an upgrade. And the worst part is, Barry doesn’t even get Ron. Even though in this idiotic ending, Ron is being used as the source code for all robots, you would think an easy rewrite wouldn’t have needed Ron to sacrifice himself. He could have just copied his code and sent it to all the other robots. He never needed to die a second time.
The Blind Perspective: I immediately always find animated films easier to follow because voice actors are often far more dynamic in their choices. Very few people sound too much like another person in the cast, so you can easily recognize voices (often really familiar ones in main roles) and it helps you associate a lot quicker with the characters. Disney always seems to provide solid audio description here, though I suspect that in some of the scenes where Ron is really going wrong, it becomes hard to fully describe the chaos. And in a science fiction film, i always would appreciate more descriptive terms regarding locations and futuristic technology so my mind doesn’t have to do all the work.
Final Thoughts: For a while, I had accepted that this was another entry into an overdone sub genre. And until a point in the film, it kinda works. Then, for some reason, it just shits the bed in the end. it actively chooses to chase a moral of the story that is ultimately unhealthy for kids, and should not be the take away from having seen this feature. Ron didn’t go wrong. The movie did. And why does something that ends so terribly, yet is also so incredibly formulaic have three listed directors on IMDB? Andrew Stanton and Brad Bird managed to direct some fantastic animated features without assistance. This was crap, and had three pairs of eyes on it.
Final Grade: D+