“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.

Make Your Own “Snow” Day

If your kids are bored this holiday season, here’s a fun activity: making “snow” at home. Warning: this can get messy so I recommend doing it outside or in an area that’s easy to clean.

My son, who is in second grade, did this activity recently as homework. It only requires two ingredients – baking soda and hair conditioner. I recommend using cheap conditioner or even conditioner you’ve gotten while traveling.

Here’s the recipe: mix 2 1/2 cups of baking soda with 1/2 cup hair conditioner. Then let your kids smush it together. You can mold it into snowmen or simply use it as a wintery backdrop, which is what we did.

Enjoy your snow day!

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.

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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.

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.

Animated Spy Movie “Spies In Disguise” Thrills the Whole Family

Spies in Disguise is the kid’s version of a James Bond movie. It has lots of heart and humor too, for kids and adults.

My family and I attended a preview screening of  the animated comedy from 20th Century Fox. Will Smith plays super spy Lance Sterling, a smooth agent who prides himself on working alone.  He relies on gadgets made by CIA-like scientists. Enter millennial scientist Walter Beckett, played by Tom Holland. He’s been using his stem skills to create and innovate since he was a little kid.

Spies in Disguise

Flash forward the present day and Walter is working in a government lab, tasked with making gadgets for secret agents. Lance needs those gadgets to get his missions completed quickly and efficiently. Even though his job is to build gadgets to take down bad guys, Walter encourages non-violence whenever possible. Many of his inventions are so mesmerizing that they cause bad guys and the audience to say, “aww.” Glitter is a theme.

At one point Lance needs helps and relies on Walter, who promises to make Lance invisible. Walter’s invention makes it happen but hijinks ensues when he turns Lance into a pigeon. The high-action secret mission continues for both Lance and Walter, who make an unlikely spy duo.

Disguise pigeons

This animated movie is very entertaining. The characters are great and animation is well done. Plus, the soundtrack from Mark Ronson is a hit. I predict this film is poised for a sequel or two.

Spies in Disguise opens Christmas Day.

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.

FROZEN 2

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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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.

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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.