Proving that movies and video games can go together
Wreck-it Ralph is directed by Rich Moore and stars the voices of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, and Jane Lynch. It won the Annie Award for Best Animated Feature.
Wreck-it Ralph is not a video game movie, at least, not by the formal definition of video game movie. It's more so of an arcade game movie, which is more or less a subset of video game movies. Unlike movies strictly based on video games, Wreck-it Ralph is not constrained by the provided skills and personalities of characters from an actual video game, a liberation that grants it the ability to be as creative and ambitious as possible.
Being Disney's 52nd animated feature film (just so you're aware, we're not counting Pixar films), you would think after a while that the Disney folks would want to try something new that doesn't involve cutesy, talking animals and happily-ever-after romances. Wreck-it Ralph happily lacks both of these things, and still has the usual sugary-sweet charm and emotional resonance of most of Disney's other films.
The story focuses on the titular Wreck-it Ralph, the bad guy in his arcade game, Fix-it Felix. Ralph's job in the game involves wrecking a tall penthouse building while poor civilian characters inside cry out in terror. Coming to the rescue is Fix-it Felix, a small repair man who hops and jumps in a fashion similar to that of Mario. The arcade player earns points by having Felix repair the building with his trusty fix-it hammer. At the end of the game, Ralph is thrown from the top of the building and down into a muddy pool.
It turns out that Ralph is a social outcast in the game. His "home" consists of a tree stump and a massive pile of bricks right next to the building. He frequently has to lay there and watch while Felix is praised and adored by the other game characters. During a party on Fix-it Felix's thirtieth anniversary, Ralph announces that he's going to earn the other characters' respect by winning a gold medal. This then leads Ralph to other games in the arcade such as the first-person shooter, Hero's Duty, and the candy-themed kart racing game, Sugar Rush. where he meets other game characters like Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch) and Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman).
So we have here a story of "misunderstood nobody wants to become a somebody", which is surprisingly appropriate for a setting of arcade games. You would think that a video game villain, who is always on the losing side of life, will eventually decide after endless defeats that enough is enough. Ralph is a bad guy that just happens to be the hero of the story.
- Wreck-it Ralph boasts a lot of creativity within its arcade world. All of the arcade games are connected to a place called Game Central Station, and we find out from Sonic the Hedgehog early on that if a character dies in a game different from their own, they will not regenerate (basically, they die/get deleted). The movie is like an all-star gathering of some of the world's most famous video game characters. There are various retro references for those old enough to remember playing on an old Atari 2600 or NES console. That being said, if video games aren't your thing, you will certainly not get a lot of the little Easter eggs placed throughout the film. But anyway, Wreck-it Ralph makes wonderful use of its large variety of places and characters to draw out humor and heart. The arcade world of the movie will leave you wanting more when the end credits begin to roll.
- The voice cast is basically perfect for the characters that the film has. The characters almost look like a video game version of the person who is voicing them. Ralph is goofy and has a ruffled brown hairstyle that compares favorably to John C. Reilly. Sergeant Calhoun? You tell me how she doesn't look almost exactly like Jane Lynch. It's hard to try and put this high point into words. You just have to see which actor is voicing who, and you would say, "Yeah. That was the perfect casting choice."
- For the most part, Wreck-it Ralph hits the mark with its humor. Some of it, though, isn't particularly clever. Vanellope makes several poop jokes when Ralph tells her about him being in Hero's Duty (Do you get it? Duty sounds like Doody?), and she even goes so far as to call him a hobo (which is more cruel than funny). If I haven't said it enough in other reviews, then let me just say it again now: any sort of jokes or moments involving poop, farts, and piss are, about 98 percent of the time, not funny. Not everyone can make them funny in the magical way that Captain Underpants can. Thankfully, these few lowbrow humor moments are vastly offset by the film's better jokes and humorous moments.
Any and all flaws in Wreck-it Ralph are heavily outweighed by the film's colorful and creative arcade game world, as well as its undeniable heartfelt charm. It's even got a great plot twist, which I think is a rarity for Disney. And on top of all this, maybe, just maybe, Wreck-it Ralph is proof that video games can work in movies. You just have to know how to do them right.
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