Movie Review: Ron's Gone Wrong
Just this very morning, I was walking to work, and along one very narrow mostly residential street with the odd spattering of small businesses, I saw 11 garbage trucks in a row doing the Thursday morning collection. How much rubbish can such a tiny corner of the world produce, I thought to myself?
Then I opened up Netflix and I found my answer.
However, occasionally a movie comes along that stands out in some way, for better or worse. Ron’s Gone Wrong was one such movie, so here are 1ØØ—give or take—observations you may, or may not, have observatiated.
零) Woke Themes
If there’s one thing the ‘woke’ love, it’s token diversity, and this movie was chock full of it. Both Swarley’s classmates and the Bubble HQ centre of operations were filled to the brim with ethnic minorities who were simply there to exist and read cue cards to the principal characters, themselves representations of evil White-man, Gates and good diverse-man, Jobs.
In fairness, the Bubble HQ probably would look like that due to big tech equality-based hiring strategies. And true to form, not a single one of them was actually a character in their own right. Marc (sic) and Andrew were the only ones that mattered, and whenever it was required that somebody punctuate their monologues with important cue card phrases like, “Oh no, what are we going to do?” or “Is that legal?” or “But there are no cameras in the woods,” or “Because it’s the woods,” the line would simply be assigned to the nearest available minority.
Now if it were up to me, I would have had each of them bring something unique to their role so they mattered as individuals, and not just items to be checked off a list, but I guess that makes me a racist.
On the other hand, it didn’t go unnoticed that they actually found the one ethnic and cultural group that it was still safe to make fun of, the one people that have never faced hardship or oppression—the Jewish Poles. They really pulled out all the stops making fun of Swarley’s cultural heritage. At one point, they even thought it would be funny to put what was effectively a baby in an incinerator for ‘the greater good.’ They did come round in the end though, by conceding that while Polish Jews are utterly insane, they’re utterly insane in kind of a cool way, as long as you don’t mind being set fire to.
一) Donka and the Goat Potential Spin Off
Donka—the woman who fixed her hernia with a ‘screwdriver and vodka’—and her goat stole every scene they were in, and if ever there was a potential spin off opportunity, it would be those two.
Actually, having now thought about that for more than a couple of seconds, it’s a terrible idea. Jack, if you’re still reading this, can you put the heading in strikethrough or whatever. I don’t want anybody taking this one seriously and actually acting on it, as Hollywood so often does, hanging as they are on our every word.
What most surprised me about Donka was the actress that played her—Olivia Colman who, according to Wikipedia, is nearly a year younger than me. Shit! She is a surprisingly versatile actress, and if ever they were going to make a female Doctöur Who, she would be on my A list to portray the titular Doctöur. Actually, let’s strike that out too—I don’t want to give the BBC any crazy ideas to pass onto some hack director like Chris Chibnall or whoever. There is only one true female Doctöur—Julie Covington—and that window closed in the early 80s. If only they had a time machine…
十) Beating a Dead Horse? Beat Harder!
As a writer, I often read through my work and think to myself, ‘Maybe I ought to tone that down a bit.’ More often, Jack reads through it and suggests I tone things down instead. Whenever I hear that voice, I always go the other way and tone it up.
This is advice the writers of Ron’s Gone Wrong clearly neglected, and should have heeded.
I’m referring, of course, to the one-off joke of having ‘Ron’ mistakenly register Swarley’s name as ‘Absalom,’ the second greatest name ever after Polish Saint and Martyr ‘Maksymilian’ (or ‘Raj’ to his mates).
Ron continued to refer to him as Absalom way past the point that it was funny anymore, and that’s when they buckled. “My friends call me Swarley” was all it took to mostly end that joke, though they did sort of rehash it at the end. They should have continued to flog that horse harder and harder until it became funny again, because that’s how humour works.
It also would have been cool to explore the very real phenomena of becoming the name that’s assigned to you, something I’m sure we can all relate to online. I would have been interested to see Swarley actually become Absalom, gradually modifying his behaviour to accommodate the shortcomings of his short-circuiting buddy in ways such as limiting his speech to content words that begin with the letter A. When he interacts with his family, they find Swarley becoming an empty shell as Absalom increasingly asserts itself and strangles out the other people in his head. Would Absalom become more machine than man? I guess we’ll never find out, because they buckled.
Dead horses are there for a reason. Never squander a dead horse!
十一) Mouth Alignment
Alright, this one is more a pet peeve than anything else.
Toy Story was released in 1995, which means we’ve had computer animated feature length movies for more than a quarter of a century now. So I have to wonder why it is they still haven’t figured out how to put people’s mouths on straight. I mean, is it really that hard? I know that faces aren’t naturally symetrical and if we met ourselves in the street, we would probably assume the person was a long-lost twin because we’re used to seeing our own faces backwards, but at least our mouths are normally pretty central on the front facing lower quadrant of our skulls, cleanly underneath whatever counts for a stupid nose. I think we also, as a rule, tend to talk out the front of our mouths, and not whatever side is closest to the camera.
I’m going to speculate here for a moment. In 2D animation and comics, there is a very common technique known as a ‘cheat.’ 2D character faces are not designed to exist in three dimensional space, so certain characteristics deliberately defy three dimensional logic in order to maintain the character’s unique and distinctive likeness. M****y Mouse (redacted for legal reasons) is a perfect example, as the two black circles that make up his ears are always front facing, regardless of the direction he’s looking, and the further he’s looking left or right, the further back on his head they appear. Similarly, Peppa Pig (a show that really is much funnier than you might imagine—we should write a review!), all of the characters have eyes and a mouth on the front of their face while their noses stick out of whatever side they’re half facing. We let it go because it’s done consistently, and that kind of numbs our brains.
My thinking is that the wonky mouth placement is a throwback to 2D animation, a cheat of sorts, so the mouth is always on the side of the face you’re looking at. There’s no necessity to do this in 3D animation, because the character faces are designed to follow three dimensional logic. On the other hand though, if the characters are too realistic, then the uncanny valley kicks in and we start to feel a bit creeped out. Applying the cheat subconsciously reminds us that what we’re looking at isn’t real.
On the other hand, perhaps on this occasion it was to draw a connection between the ‘human’ characters and the two dimensional expressions of their robotic counterparts, subconsciously blurring the already thin line between man and machine. I suspect this is way too smart for them to explore though, especially given that it’s present in almost every stylised CG animated movie.
百) The Dam
Though never actually stated, the reason the Bubble HQ was positioned on top of a dam was to imply its servers were powered by hydroelectricity—a green energy source that doesn’t kill quite as many people every year (per energy distribution capita) as fossil fuel based methods.
This is a really stupid idea for two reasons.
あ) The power output would not be nearly sufficient to power such a facility by a very long shot. I should add that this is purely guesswork, as I have no way of actually quantifying this. Building it on top of a nuclear power station would have been a much better option, as they could have showcased the civilisation-saving benefits of fourth generation nuclear power, which is just an engineering solution away.
い) The server ‘city’ was in the basement. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried building a vast basement network underwater on the edge of a dam—I haven’t—but it’s clearly as stupid as, say, putting your HQ offices in floating bubbles in a giant external floating bubble precariously placed on the edge of said dam. Which they did. OK, yeah, that makes sense now. Sort of.
う) They should have somehow suspended the giant bubble in mid air, like bubbles do. That would have been way cooler. Maybe integrate sharpened blades so they can harness the power of wind, which kills (in total figures) nearly twice as many people per year as hydroelectricity. If energy isn’t worth dying for, I don’t know what is.
To wrap up, Locksmith did something with this feature that you rarely see in CG animated movies—they actually made it funny. Disney efforts are diabolically awful, and invariably rely on a single comic relief character to engage in silly antics to distract us, fool us into thinking we’re having a good time. Alright, the horse in Tangled was pretty damned cool and I’d love to see a spin-off featuring Maximus after all the other characters have tragically died in an inexplicable hair-related fire, but that really is the exception. Ron as a character was hilarious, but there was much greater depth to the humour than his antics alone.
And speaking of depth, the movie also had a strong emotional core that resonates and draws its audience in. We could relate to Absalom’s sense of alienation from his family and ‘not not’ friends, and the growing relationship between him and Ron. It also felt natural that Ron would gradually grow to become more ‘human’ than any of the other characters, making SPOILERS ALERT his ultimate sacrifice all the more poignant.
It also presented a realistic anti-tech stance, which rather than presenting it as an evil unto itself, posited that a balance between integrating technology into our daily lives and having it take over desperately needs to be struck. It’s a pill many of us will find hard to swallow, but they managed to hide it in some ice cream. Most modern movies aimed at kids are like, no, you can’t have any ice cream until after you’ve taken your medicine. Nobody likes those movies. That’s why they have a comic relief character to shame you into pretending you’re having a good time.
Also, the production company ‘Locksmith’ got me thinking about how cool it would be to be able to pick locks. I tried using my Leatherman Wave+ but it clearly requires specialised tools that are much narrower and nuanced. I found a lockpicking starter set on Amazon and am currently weighing up the pros of having a cool new real world hobby that doesn’t rely on digital tech—impress my friends by showing up unannounced in their bedrooms at three in the morning—and the cons of having to explain the purchase to my wife.
Want a completely free sci-fi comedy?
Rob is a ginger waiter who successfully fails at dating. Dave delivers towels. Join them on an adventure that might change the entire galaxy – but won’t – as they drink free beer and travel out to the edge of the known galaxy for reasons that barely seem worth mentioning.