Why 'Devastatingly Talented' Zach Galifianakis Is the Perfect Robot in 'Ron's Gone Wrong'

Unconventional talk show host, bachelor party hijacker and Batman villain The Joker—Zach Galifianakis can now add lovable robot to his impressive list of movie characters.

He voices the titular Ron in the new family animation Ron's Gone Wrong, which is out in theaters now. Ron is an unconventional, perhaps malfunctional B-bot who forms a strong bond with his owner and soon-to-be best friend Barney (Jack Dylan Grazer).

The movie premiered at the BFI London Film Festival and directing trio Sarah Smith, Jean-Philippe Vine and Octavio E. Rodriguez spoke to Newsweek.

What If Zach Galifianakis Was the Microsoft Paperclip?

Since Galifianakis is a world famous comedian, the directors were happy to let him play around with the script in order to develop his character.

Vine told Newsweek: "We always let him run with things because he was so funny. He's an amazingly kind of unassuming actor. Even though he's a devastatingly talented human being, he was really willing to kind of have us kind of shape that voice with him."

One third of the team and first-time director Rodriguez echoed the sentiment, but told Newsweek how all the cast members were given freedom in the booth. "There was no reining in, for any of the actors. Basically, we were very fortunate with all the actors that we worked with that they just brought a lot to it and we welcomed all of it," he said.

Ron'es Gone Wrong
Ron (Zach Galifianakis) and his pal Barney (Jack Dylan Grazer) in a still from "Ron's Gone Wrong." Disney

The diminutive robot Ron may seem familiar to anyone who owned a desktop computer in the '90s and early '00s as co-writer and director Smith explains: "I always thought about Ron as that Microsoft Paperclip from years ago, 'looks like you're writing a letter' that sort of irritating perky customer service voice, and that was how we imagined it."

Based on the fury that digital creature used to create, it could have made Ron into an unlovable character, but luckily, Galifianakis made sure we were rooting for him. Smith explained: "Really, Zach came in much later and then brought a whole other layer of joy to the character."

Zach Galifianakis and Jack Dylan Grazer
Zach Galifianakis (Ron) and Jack Dylan Grazer (Barney) arrive at the U.S. premiere of Ron's Gone Wrong at El Capitan Theatre on October 19, 2021, in Hollywood, California. Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

Children's Tales From the Future

On the origins of the story, Smith says she saw Spike Jonze's futuristic tech-minded movie Her and thought the themes could be adapted for kids. Together with Borat co-writer Peter Baynham, they created a story based in the not-too-distant future.

Set in a social media-filled and tech-fueled world, Ron's Gone Wrong shows that today's schoolyard issues will still exist for years to come.

Writing the movie from a parent's perspective, Smith said: "None of us know what we're doing in the whole digital world. As parents, we're trying to make up rules because it's all so new.

"And you know, friendship is the thing that your kids struggled with most every single day, they don't come home talking about science, they come talking about who played with who that in the playground, and it's our big challenge that we carry into adulthood."

Smith continued, "So for me it's about making something that I really cared about how truthful and meaningful and like something that was being talked about in other households."

While Ron's Gone Wrong isn't necessarily filling a gap in the market, according to Smith, it is telling a prescient story reflecting the more menial technological woes that have yet to become mainstream in movies.

At this point in time, Rodriguez thinks family films including technology are here to stay. "The idea is that we have to look at it as a sense of embracing the technology versus thinking it's gonna go away, but also trying to find the human condition or what actually matters and how we stay connected."

Social media is an important theme highlighted in Ron's Gone Wrong too, and Vine thinks the movie, and many more that are sure to come, can help us look at the online world a little differently. He said: "I hope that this movie comes out of time—the pandemic—when everyone is thinking about a more healthy way of living with technology and wanting to maybe re-evaluate what their relationship is with social media."

While Galifianakis and Grazer play the leads Ron and Barney, the voice cast also features performances from the likes of Olivia Colman, Ed Helms, Justice Smith and Rob Delaney. Former One Direction singer Liam Payne recorded the original song "Sunshine" for the movie and also lends his voice to the cast.

Ron's Gone Wrong is out in cinemas now. It will likely land on home digital platforms in the lead up to Christmas.

Ron's Gone Wrong still
"Ron's Gone Wrong" features the friendship between a malfunctioning robot and his owner. Disney