December 8, 2021 – At a time when pandemic and social media stresses are a factor in weight gain, blood pressure increases, higher rates of suicides and mass shootings, as well as threats to democracy, comes this nice little animated movie about a couple of outcasts who help make the world a better place.
This 20th Century Studios animated film (formerly the home of Blue Sky Studios) shows the influence of Pixar storytelling, with its strong characters and emotional story about an unpopular boy and his defective robot, who both turn out to be just what the world needs.
The story takes place in the future when a Meta-like company called Bubble dominates social media and has collected personal information on everyone. Bubble launches a new product, a robot that will be your friend, and has many stunning capabilities. The robot imprints on the registered owner, and downloads detailed and complete personal information about him or her. Using a “friendship algorithm,” it becomes the owner's best friend.
This “B-Bot” searches the internet for people who share its owner's interests and sends out friend requests. It organizes the owner's social media accounts, and sifts through everything on the internet to find content its owner is sure to like. Kids love these B-Bots and everybody wants one.
In the town on Nonesuch, Barney Pudowski is the only Middle School student who doesn't have his own B-Bot. He is an outcast. He hopes to get one for his birthday, but when his birthday rolls around, he doesn't get one. When his father, Graham Pudowski, sees how disappointed his son is, he and Barney's grandmother, Donka Pudowski, go in search of a B-Bot for Barney (say that three times fast).
It turns out there is a three-month wait to get a new B-Bot, but Graham and Donka manage to find a slightly damaged B-Bot on the black market. At first, Barney is overjoyed with his new B-Bot, but soon realizes there is something wrong with it. The B-Bot, Ron, can't seem to connect to the internet, and Barney isn't the registered owner.
Barney decides to take Ron back to Bubble, but then discovers that Ron is fun to be with just the way he is, and he decides to keep him. Instead of downloading his profile and friendship algorithm from the internet, he decides to teach Ron how to be his friend the old fashioned way, with post-it notes.
Since Ron is not a normal B-Bot, he protects Barney from the school bully. Word gets out that there is a rogue B-Bot on the loose. Bubble executives decide that Ron must be destroyed because he attacked the school bully, protecting Barney. Ron shows that B-Bots can overcome their programming. B-Bots are not supposed to be capable of violence, even in defense of their owners.
Barney undertakes extreme measures to protect Ron from being destroyed. Meanwhile, Marc Weidell, B-Bot creator, becomes fascinated with Ron. He is worried that B-Bots are causing children to become isolated and unhappy, and he comes to believe that Ron's unorthodox programming may be the answer to this problem.
This movie has quality animation, and a strong story that is emotionally satisfying. The message of the movie is not just about diversity, but the need for children to interact in the real world, not just in artificial virtual worlds. It also advocates kindness for each other, rather than the online ridicule that is all too easy for people to do when they are not interacting with each other face to face. This film rates a B.
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