“Ron’s Gone Wrong” – How a Malfunctioning Robot Underscores the Importance of Real-life Friendship

My sons and I attended the media preview of “Ron’s Gone Wrong” – an animated comedy adventure by 20th Century Studios and Locksmith Animation’s first theatrical release – about a socially awkward 7th grader, Barney Pudowski. The boy becomes friends with a B*Bot – a personal robot that walks, talks and is supposed to keep him digitally connected.

The B*Bot, short for Bubble Bot, was created by a company named Bubble, which seems to be a mix of Apple and Facebook. While the device is a digital friend, it’s actually tracking the user’s preferences and knows that person’s private information. While Bubble sees this as a business opportunity for marketing and sales, kids just see it as fun, and a chance to make friends.

RON’S GONE WRONG – (L-R): Ron (voiced by Zack Galifianakis) and Barney (voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer). © 2021 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

“Best Friend out of the Box”

When we left the theater, my eight-year-old told me he would love a B*Bot. On some level, I think we would all like a personal robot. The B*Bot is billed as “Best Friend out of the Box.” It’s loyal to one person, it’s owner/user. Think about it, with a personalized robot, you always have a friend: someone to agree with you, someone who likes what you like and someone who will always do what do you want to do.

But even a personalized robot might not be all it seems. All of the kids in Barney’s school have one of these robots. He doesn’t have one and consequently he always feels left out. We see him struggling at recess to make a friend while his classmates are having fun with others and everyone’s robots too.

Barney, voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer, is desperate for a B*Bot, since it seems like a friendly sidekick. His dad and grandmother realize it’s all he wants so they scrape together money but there’s a long waiting list. All they can buy is a back-alley battered bot that is scratched. They didn’t realize it was malfunctioning too.

When Barney realizes his bot is damaged, he’s disappointed but he perseveres because a battered bot is better than none at all, or so he thinks. It turns out his robot, serial number R0NB1NT5CAT5CO, aka Ron, doesn’t know how to be an instant friend and it has different settings than a typical model. Comedian Zach Galifianakis is fun in this role as Ron.

Soon Barney finds out the malfunctioning robot can get violent. He’s amazed as Ron beats up the bully, a YouTuber-type who’s always picking on Barney. The bully’s live stream shows the whole incident and soon the hunt is on for Barney and Ron – since the Bubble team is concerned that a violent robot would be bad for business.

By then, Barney has been teaching Ron how to be a friend. The two have fun, even laughing and playing outdoors. They genuinely like each other and start to become real friends.

Meanwhile we see how these devices, which are always connected, can livestream users’ activities which can embarrass them. For example, a stunt goes awry and we see Barney’s classmate, a girl he’s known since kindergarten, get humiliated on camera.

Technology isn’t all bad though. This movie was made during the pandemic and every Friday, the the “Ron’s Gone Wrong” crew would get together on Zoom for their weekly production status meeting. 

(L-R): Ron (voiced by Zack Galifianakis) and Barney (voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer). © 2021 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

Real-life relationships

Ron is unlike other B*Bots. The B*Bot’s creator, Marc Wydell (voiced by Justice Smith) ­– a young developer a lot like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg – never programmed the device to laugh. He longed for friendship as a kid and seems to embrace this unexpected malfunction. Mark says his design was created for the purity of having a friend. But like real life social media, the original intent seems to get lost in a sea of sales and business opportunity.

The other B*Bot executive, Andrew Morris (portrayed by Rob Delaney) – a Steve Jobs-like character – emerges as the bad guy, who’s more concerned about profiting off the product, than customer satisfaction.

Andrew is the one who wants to literally crush the malfunctioning bot. But Barney and his real-life friends band together to protect Ron and restore their friendship. After all, they’ve all known each other since kindergarten and even though they’re doing different things now, they have a common foundation of friendship.

RON’S GONE WRONG – (L-R): Barney (voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer) and Ron (voiced by Zack Galifianakis). © 2021 20th Century Studios. All Rights Reserved.

The movie is an eye-opener about how as a society, we’re all so focused on having the latest device, and at the same time, ignoring real-life relationships. It’s a good remind for adults and kids to look beyond screen time for interaction.

“Ron’s Gone Wrong” opens nationwide October 22, 2021.

Stay at Home for the Premiere of “Trolls World Tour”

You’re invited to have your town “Trolls World Tour” watch party at home – social distancing is definitely encouraged.

 

In the era of COVID-19, both parents and kids have been indoors for a month, living our best quarantine life. Spending around-the-clock time at home with my kids is nice but we’re all ready for something entertaining!

Now it’s time for some Friday fun: an at-home movie premiere for “Trolls World Tour.” This movie, a sequel to “Trolls,” the 2016 DreamWorks Animation hit, was slated for theaters but now it’s going to be available on-demand starting tomorrow, Friday April 10.

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Watch the movie at 10 am Pacific and live tweet with the film’s directors Walt Dohrn and The McElroy Brothers. Use the hashtag: #TrollsWatchParty.

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Host your own viewing party with your family, complete with themed snacks and decorations. This link has printable crafts and coloring pages, as well as recipes.

Want a peak at the movie, which stars Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake? Here’s the trailer: https://youtu.be/08AExF6dETA

“Onward” – On a Quest for Magic and Family Connections

“Onward” is a brotherhood movie in the way that “Frozen” is a sisterhood movie. I attended a media screening of this film, which has a lot of heart. Like many Disney/Pixar movies, it made me tear up at the end.

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When we meet Ian, he’s preparing for his 16th birthday and just trying to fit in at high school. Meanwhile his older brother Barley is a fun loving character who spends a lot of time in a fantasy world, full of magic and spells. Did I mention? The teens are elves.

It’s Ian’s dream to spend time with his dad, who died before he was born. Barley, remembers their dad and misses him too.  Ian’s dream could be a reality after the teen’s mother gives him a gift from his father. The gift? A magical stick that with the right spell can make their father come back for just one day.

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It turns out Ian has more magical powers than he ever knew. He makes a spell and it partly works: the boys have half of their father back. Their dad revealed from the waist down, purple socks included. The brother duo then embark on a quest to find a gem to help Ian create another spell to reveal the rest of their father.  Throughout this endeavor, Barley drives a rundown van named Guinevere. The vehicle is a character in itself.

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The brothers’ voyage starts as a mission to find that magical gem to help them spend one more day with their deceased dad. But it turns into a journey of self-discovery. The premise is that we all have a little magic in us if we just look for it and believe in ourselves.

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Tom Holland, who plays Ian, and Chris Pratt, who portrays Barley, are really a great set of brothers in this film. Pratt reminds me of Jack Black. As an aside, I’d like to see a Jack Black/ Chris Pratt film.

The movie is part fantasy, part modern day story. Some of the things that happen are absurd but you accept them and they somehow work in the overall storyline. The main characters are elves who live in cul-de-sac homes that look like mushrooms. Ian is a typical teenager; the family has a pet dragon, his mom does workout tapes and they all have cell phones.

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The fun unfolds. Ian’s mother, voiced by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, has an interesting new boyfriend, a half cop/half Minotaur, who annoys the kids. During the journey, the teens meet tough biker elves who are hysterical. Plus, Ian and Barley spend a lot of time worrying they they’ll end up in a green gelatinous cube if they can’t make their mission a success.

Their dad loves to dance and despite not having a torso or a head, he’s got moves. He stumbles because he can’t see and the result is silly and endearing. It even has “Weekend at Bernie’s” vibes.

ONWARD

We, Ian and Barley realize at the at end that we don’t really need to see the dad’s face. He lives on beyond the physical world because he’s reflected in his kids.

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This Pixar Animation Studios’ film is produced by Kori Rae and directed by Dan Scanlon. As expected from a Pixar/Disney film, the animation, music and sound are well done. The characters are lifelike and the storytelling is solid.

This heartwarming story will resonate with viewers, especially those who love a family story or anyone who grew up without a parent.

The movie opens March 6.

Frozen is Back! Frozen2

I was invited to attend a media preview of Frozen II​. The Disney film is back with familiar characters and new adventures.

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This time, Elsa hears a voice that no one else hears. She and her sister Anna, as well as Kristoff, Olaf and Sven go on a journey through enchanted forests and dark seas to find the truth behind that voice.

Along the way they make new friends and sing some fun songs. My favorite new song is called “Something’s Never Change.” #Frozen2 is rated PG and opens Friday, November 22.

Photo credits: Disney

Kicking off the Christmas Season with “Klaus”

It’s only November 2, but who can pass up the opportunity to hang out with Santa? 🎅🏻

Today my family and I attended a sneak peak of the new Netflixfilm’s movie, which premieres November 15 on the streaming service.

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This cute holiday movie has lots of heart. The theme? Every good deed sparks another good deed.  My kids, my husband and I really enjoyed it. 🎅🏻  These festive Klaus cupcakes were delicious too!

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Angry Birds 2: Animated Summer Fun

Ready for a fun movie? The Angry Birds Movie 2 opened this week and it’s a cute summer flick with humor, a great soundtrack and a new inspiring character. My kids and I got a sneak peek and we loved it!

 

Angry Birds 2 Cast

Even if you didn’t see the first Angry Birds movie, you’ll quickly catch up to meet the crew. Last time the angry birds, guided by Red who’s played by Jason Sudeikis, battled the green piggies led by Leonard, who’s voiced by Bill Hader.

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Red (Jason Sudeikis) and Leonard (Bill Hader) in Columbia Pictures and Rovio Animations’ ANGRY BIRDS 2.

This time they have to join forces to take on a new nemesis – Eagle Island’s Zeta, played by Leslie Jones. Zeta is fed up living in frozen conditions so she decides she’s going to take over Bird and Piggy Islands for her own paradise. She blasts ice bombs at the birds and pigs but instead of surrendering, the once-enemies, band together to fight for their homes.

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Zeta (Leslie Jones) in Columbia Pictures and Rovio Animations’ ANGRY BIRDS 2.ANGRY

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Red wants to be the hero but instead it’s Silver, voiced by Rachel Bloom, who has all the good insights, calm demeanor and scientific know-how.

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Silver is cool under pressure and shows being smart is awesome. She’s girl power through and through. In the end, Red isn’t threatened by her. Instead they work together, making a great team.

Kids and adults will enjoy Angry Birds Movie 2 – it’s lighthearted but it still has lots of heart and some nice lessons too.

 

Live-Action “Aladdin” – a Whole New Movie

Packed with lively music, precise choreography and attention to detail, Disney’s “Aladdin” (in theaters May 24) is pure fun. I attended a media preview and was wowed by this vibrant and energetic musical.

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The storyline is easy to follow: “street rat” Aladdin has to steal to survive; he doesn’t recognize Princess Jasmine, the Sultan’s daughter, when he meets her in the marketplace and she’s dressed as a commoner. He steals her bracelet and then rescues her when she gets in trouble with a market vendor.

nullAladdin follows her home and meets Jafar, played by Marwan Kenzari, the Sultan’s trusted advisor. Jafar, who wants to rule and has a plan to overthrow the Sultan, convinces Aladdin to locate a magic oil lamp from a dangerous cave. In return, Jafar says he’ll help Aladdin. But that’s not the case.null

 

Aladdin dusts off the lamp and unknowingly summons Genie, (played by Will Smith) who promises Aladdin three wishes.

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Genie wants to be a prince to capture the heart of Jasmine, who by law, can only marry a prince. The story plays out in exciting and adventurous fashion.

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This new “Aladdin” will surely draw comparisons to the 1992 animated version which is a beloved classic film. My take? On its own merit, this movie is a charmer. The animated version and this new “Aladdin” are two separate movies, both based on a Middle Eastern folktale, “One Thousand and One Arabian Nights.”

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I was impressed by the performances, especially the stars: Mena Massoud, who plays Aladdin; Naomi Scott, who portrays Princess Jasmine; and Smith, who doesn’t disappoint as Genie.

Comedian Robin Williams was hysterical as the animated Genie in the animated film, so no doubt it’s a tough role for Smith to step into. He nails the multifaceted performance.  Throughout the movie, he’s  charismatic – singing, dancing and storytelling in big ways. When we first meet Genie, he’s larger than life and engaging; later he’s theover-the-top tailor who transform Aladdin in Prince Ali; and then we see how charming he is as the suitor for Princess Jasmine’s handmaiden, Dalia, played by Nasim Pedrad. Along the way, he becomes Aladdin’s friend too.

Massoud and Scott have great chemistry, singing and dancing throughout the movie as well.  We’ll likely see more of both actors in other projects. Their star power is evident.

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The common theme is freedom. Aladdin wants freedom from his life as a street rat; Jasmine wants freedom to be herself, leave the palace and someday lead the people of Agrabah; and Genie wants freedom from living in a bottle and serving whichever master picks up the lamp.

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I found “Aladdin,” directed by Guy Ritchie, to be a worthy remake. I can like both the original animated blockbuster and this new version. Let me know what you think.

Choosing the Best Summer Camp for Your Child

Summer camp season is fast approaching! There’s a lot to consider – what type of camp is best for your budget, your child’s interests and the family’s schedule?

Before you make a camp decision, check out the video I made with San Diego Family Magazine in which I share tips on how you can make sure you’re choosing the best camp for your child. 

Next, check out the magazine’s summer camp guide.

 

 

Movie Night Under the Stars

I love watching a movie under the stars! 🎥

I really enjoyed the media preview of Rooftop Cinema Club, a rooftop “theatre” atop of the Manchester Grand Hyatt San Diego. It’s such a pretty setup and the views are amazing.

I got to watch a classic movie, “Grease,”  a very fun sing-along! The set-up includes snuggling under the stars in comfortable deck chairs (blankets are so cozy!) and watching the movie while listening with wireless headphones.

Rooftop cinema season kicks off this week and continues throughout the summer.

The movies are always iconic films that people know and love. Upcoming shows include Top Gun, Dirty Dancing, Bohemian Rhapsody and The Greatest Showman, among others.