DirectorSarah Smith, Jean-Philippe Vine, Octavio E. Rodriguez
Release Date(s)2021 (December 7, 2021)
Studio(s)Locksmith Animation/20th Century Animation (20th Century Studios)
- Film/Program Grade: B-
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: B+
- Extras Grade: D
Ron’s Gone Wrong is the first feature film from Locksmith Animation, created in partnership with DNEG (which provided the actual computer animation services). Locksmith was founded by Sarah Smith and Julie Lockhart, both of whom served as producers (with Sarah also joining in writing and directing). The film actually went into production in 2017, and had its release date pushed back several times thanks to the pandemic. It also suffered from upheaval due to the fact that Locksmith had a multi-film production deal with 20th Century Fox, and after Disney acquired that company, Ron’s Gone Wrong eventually became the first film to be released under the new 20th Century Animation label—with Disney providing minimal marketing effort for it. (All of that ended up pushing Locksmith to strike a new deal with Warner Bros for all future productions.) Yet despite all of those obstacles and the disappointing box office, Ron’s Gone Wrong is still an entertaining look at the ways that interpersonal connections are formed in the digital era.
The screenplay by Peter Baynham and Smith revolves around Barney (Jack Dylan Grazer), a socially awkward middle school student who struggles with making friends and fitting in. All of the other students at his school have become obsessed with new electronic devices called B*Bots, which are sort of the ultimate robotic Alexa and Siri combined, billed as your “best friend out of the box.” Barney’s family finally gets him one of his own, but it’s a malfunctioning one named Ron (Zach Galifianakis). Yet while Ron may be missing the proper code to function as designed, he’s able to learn more about the true meaning of friendship without it.
Ron’s Gone Wrong takes scattered shots at a wide variety of targets in the modern age, including social media, over-reliance on digital devices, Apple Events, Apple stores, and even Apple Store Geniuses. Not all of those shots land, but the most interesting aspect of the film is how it examines the nature of friendship. Technology in Ron’s Gone Wrong is neither good nor bad, but merely a tool that can be used well, or used poorly. Since Ron can’t function as intended to help Barney make friends via online connections, the B*Bot has to learn about the nature of friendship in an old-school fashion, not interconnected virtually, but rather person-to-person. (Ron’s version of “friend requests” never fails to be amusing.) Yet Ron is still an electronic device that helps Barney to make those connection. As Ron learns about friendship, so does Barney, but more importantly, so do the other students at the school.
Ron’s Gone Wrong suffers a bit from having an obligatory but unnecessary action-adventure climax, and also from having an even more obligatory villain. It doesn’t really need one, as its real antagonist is the misuse of technology by modern society. The human villain is defeated in the end, but it serves as a distraction from the thematic heart of the film. Ultimately, the hopeful message in Ron’s Gone Wrong is that people can learn to use technology as a tool to strengthen interpersonal relationships, rather than as a distancing device to create barriers. Technology will never go away, so we have to learn to live with it—it’s all just a question of priorities. Ron’s programming may have gone wrong, but his heart is in the right place, so he’s well-equipped to lead the way.
Ron’s Gone Wrong was animated digitally, with its visuals supervised by cinematographers David Peers and Hailey White. Like most digitally animated films, it was likely rendered at 2K resolution, which was then upsampled to 4K for this Ultra HD release and graded for HDR (only HDR10 is included on the disc). Compared to the 1080p Blu-ray (also included in this package), the resulting image looks slightly crisper, with better definition. The differences aren’t dramatic, but it shows the advantages of upscaling the uncompressed master at its source. At normal viewing distances, some of it could pass for native 4K—it’s only when viewed from up close that the lack of true 4K detail is noticeable. However, the biggest improvements are in the color detail provided by the HDR grade. Ron’s Gone Wrong has a broadly varied color palette, with many of the backgrounds and costumes displaying somewhat muted earth tones, which lets the brilliant colors of the B*Bots stand out in sharp relief. There’s a dazzling array of shades to their “skins,” as well as in the offices of the Bubble Corporation. The actual contrast range of the HDR grade is strong, with deep black levels, but it’s the contrast of the colors that really stands out.
Primary audio is offered in English Dolby Atmos. It’s a Disney release, so the track is mastered at a low level, but thankfully turning the volume up restores some of the dynamics—though there’s still very little deep bass. On the other hand, it’s an active mix, with plenty of directionalized effects zinging around all of the primary channels. The overheads are used a bit more sparsely, but there’s still a satisfying sense of envelopment thanks to the aggressive use of the main surround channels. Henry Jackman’s score is reproduced well. Additional audio options include English 2.0 Descriptive Audio and French, Spanish, and Japanese 7.1 Dolby Digital Plus. Subtitle options include English SDH, French, Spanish, and Japanese.
Like many Disney releases, their Ultra HD for Ron’s Gone Wrong is branded as an Ultimate Collector’s Edition, regardless of actual content. It’s a 2-Disc set that includes a Blu-ray, a Digital code on a paper insert, and a slipcover. There are no extras on the UHD. The following brief extras are included on the Blu-ray, all of them in HD:
- A Boy and His B*Bot: When Jack Met Zach (3:51)
- Making Ron Right (16:23)
- Theatrical Trailer (2:02)
A Boy and His B*Bot is a very short dialogue between Jack Dylan Grazer and Zach Galifianakis, where they joke about social media and technology, and don’t really talk about the film at all. Making Ron Right features interviews with Smith, Lockhart, Peers, White, co-writer Peter Bayhnam, co-directors Jean-Philippe Vine & Octavio E. Rodriguez, and a few others. They talk about the development of the story, its themes, the cast, and a few details about the production itself. Unfortunately, at a scant 16 minutes, those details are sparse.
Ron’s Gone Wrong appears to have received the same indifferent treatment on home video that it did for its theatrical release, but despite the lack of in-depth extras, the film still shines, and the digital animation sparkles in Ultra HD. There’s nothing subtle about its message—this is a family film, after all—but it’s an entirely appropriate one for this day and age.
- Stephen Bjork