“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.

Remembering Cameron Boyce and Honoring His Legacy

Actor Cameron Boyce died last year of sudden unexpected death in epilepsy (SUDEP) and now his family is continuing his humanitarian work. In my Mediaplanet article, his parents explain the 20-year old had a mission for good.

Cameron Boyce

“He would most definitely want us to take care of each other and be loving to one another, and to be strong,” says his mother, Libby Boyce. “He would most definitely want us to continue working on things that make the world a better place.”

Read more about his epilepsy, #SUDEP and the projects he loved. This article ran last week in a Neurological Disorders report inside USA TODAY. Read the article here.

Get more information about Cameron Boyce’s Foundation.

“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.

ONWARD

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.

ONWARD

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.

ONWARD

 

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.

ONWARD

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.

ONWARD

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.

ONWARD

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.

Life Skills Kids Need to Foster Independence

I’m always telling why kids they need to learn life skills, like cooking, cleaning, finances and more. While my kids probably roll their eyes, there’s truth to this statement. Where else and when else will children learn the skills they’ll need as adults? They rely on their parents, teachers and other adults now to help them develop skills they’ll use for the rest of their lives.

IMG_3483

That’s why I pitched this article idea to my editor at San Diego Family Magazine. The resulting article breaks down the five life skills kids need to foster independence.

The article is the cover story for the October issue of San Diego Family Magazine and I’m really proud of the article. Pick up the magazine at one of over 1500 locations throughout San Diego, including local schools and libraries. Or check out this link.

 

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.

Review: “The LEGO® Movie 2: The Second Part”

Everything is awesome again…or is it?

Last week my family and I got a sneak peek of “The LEGO® Movie 2: The Second Part,” and it didn’t disappoint. The movie opens this weekend and kids and adults will enjoy catching up with the animated crew.

Emmet, Lucy, Batman (voiced by Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks and Will Arnett, respectively) and the Lego friends are back but this time they have a new foe: LEGO DUPLO® invaders from outer space, who seem to be on a mission to ruin everything we know and love about Bricksburg.

IMG_5366

Five years ago, we met the team that worked together to make everything awesome but now that awesomeness is in jeopardy. There are new characters (including a character voiced by Tiffany Haddish, who’s constantly morphing into new looks) and yes, new songs that definitely will get stuck in your head.

There’s a big theme: all of the characters want one thing – not to get relegated to the bin or storage, where the fun and awesomeness would cease. The whole family will enjoy watching as new and old LEGO friends work together to prevent that sad fate.

“The LEGO Movie 2” brings out many emotions: it’s silly and sentimental; fun and imaginative; and it makes kids and adults feel wistful about growing up.

These characters definitely have more stories to tell. I have a feeling there will be a third LEGO movie.

“Mary Poppins Returns” Is Movie Magic

It’s fitting that “Mary Poppins Returns” is opening right before Christmas. This cheery musical, based in 1930’s London, is a delightful gift for Disney fans of all ages.

MaryPoppinsReturns5a9cf5963902e-2

The plot is simple: The Banks family is struggling to keep their home after their mother died. Michael Banks, whose childhood nanny was Mary Poppins, is widowed and struggling to pay his mortgage. The bank is ready to foreclose on the home. That’s when Mary Poppins flies in to assist the family whose home is on 17 Cherry Tree Lane.

null

Emily Blunt, as the leading lady and Lin-Manuel Miranda as a Jack, a lamplighter, are fabulous in their starring roles.

Even 92-year-old Dick Van Dyke, an original cast member from “Mary Poppins,” has a cameo in the new film. The audience cheered when he was first seen on screen. A joy then and now, Van Dyke still has impeccable dancing and singing skills.

My kids and I attended a media preview and loved the film. Fun and upbeat, it’s poised to become a new Disney classic.  There are moments of melancholy, like when the three Banks children are sad and miss their mother. But with Poppins’ magic, life lessons prevail – good triumphs over evil and family is everything.

Screen Shot 2018-12-19 at 8.39.30 PM

The movie is based on “Mary Poppins” stories by author PL Travers. Like the 1964 original film, this one is packed with catchy, memorable songs and dances. It has a lot of heart and I’m sure the soundtrack will do well. One of my favorite scenes was for a song called, “A Cover Is Not the Book,” where Blunt and Miranda merrily sing and dance about books.

null

Throughout the musical, the costumes are colorful and the design is detailed. A few fun facts:

  • All the animation in the film is two dimensional and hand-drawn/hand-painted, just as it was in the original “Mary Poppins.”
  • Every costume Blunt wears features a bow at the neck of her blouse. The bows are a tribute to costume designer Tony Walton’s work in the original movie.

null

My kids and I thoroughly enjoyed “Mary Poppins Returns.” I’m sure we’ll see it again soon.

Review: “The Grinch”

Getting ready for Christmas? There’s nothing like a holiday movie to get you in the mood to celebrate the season.

Film Title: Dr. Seuss' The Grinch

The other night, my sons and I got a sneak peek of “The Grinch,” which opens today.

This animated movie by Illumination, which is based on Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is the latest iteration of the Grinch, chronicling a cranky green guy who hates Christmas.

GRC_Adv1Sheet_SchemeBig_RGB_1_SM

This Grinch isn’t portrayed as mean, evil or even very spiteful. Instead he’s a loner, who seems more sad, than anything else. (In a fun moment, he wallows in self-pity, playing “All By Myself” on the organ, next to his beloved dog, Max.)

Film Title: Dr. Seuss' The Grinch

His Who-ville neighbors are far too happy about the holiday and Grinch just wants the jolly season to end. Grinch, voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch, decides to pose as Santa so he can steal Christmas. His plan backfires when the town’s little darling, Cindy-Lou Who has a special request for Santa. The theory is that Grinch’s heart is two sizes too small. After his encounter with Cindy-Lou Who, Grinch’s heart grows.

Grinch is a loner, who seems more sad, than anything else.

Narrated by Pharrell Williams, “The Grinch” has an impressive cast. We enjoyed Kenan Thompson as Mr. Bricklebaum, the over-the-top Who-ville neighbor who loves to decorate; and Rashida Jones, who plays Donna Who, Cindy-Loo’s overworked single mother.

Film Title: Dr. Seuss' The Grinch

This “Grinch” was a fun start to the season. www.grinchmovie.com

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Rated: PG