So, the history of Video game movies has not been great. We all recall the horrors of films like Street Fighter and Doom. Many people said that it should not be attempted, as games and movies are just too different, and to that I would heartily agree. But Wreck-it Ralph is not a game turned into a film, but rather a film about gaming. It introduces a new world and the idea that game characters are actually just doing a job and are separate from the world they live in, fully aware that they are characters in an arcade. It was this premise that drew me to go see Wreck-it Ralph, and I was surprised at how well it was pulled off.
The basic story is that Wreck-it Ralph, the antagonist in an 80s-style cabinet arcade game, is tired of being the bad guy. He sees the good guy, Fix-it Felix Jr., living the high life in a big house, getting pies, and having all of the other characters love and adore him. Ralph thinks that if he were to win a medal like Felix does after every game then he would have a better life. So Ralph travels to another game in the arcade called Hero’s Duty, in hopes of obtaining his own medal. From there, mayhem ensues and ralph must save the arcade from a destructive virus-like force and prevent any game from being unplugged, thus causing their world to disappear. It is a classic story of someone wanting to escape the role they have been cast in, and is told with laughter and surprising heart.
Wreck-It-Ralph is a Disney non-Pixar CG animated film. In the past, Disney has not had the best showing with CG films that were not Pixar made, lest were remember Chicken Little, Meet the Robinsons, and Bolt. These were all lackluster films that were missing the Disney spark. Then they made Tangled, which was a call back to their fairy tale roots, and it was great; I thoroughly enjoyed it, with its wonderful animation and songs. I was starting to think maybe Disney was coming back, especially since Pixar seems to have fallen off the pure gold wagon with recent disappointments Cars 2 and Brave. So I went into Wreck-it Ralph with high hopes, and I can say that my faith in Disney has been restored. Ralph was a funny, wonderfully animated and designed journey that I felt really spoke to the gamer in us all, wether you grew up with Pac-Man and Donkey Kong or Mario Kart and Call of Duty, there is something for everyone.
Now, the story is not without its plot holes, and a few game rules seemed to have been made soley to help the story flow better, but they were minor and didn’t detract much from the overall enjoyment. It is the classic case of rooting for the underdogs, and you don’t get more downtrodden than Ralph and his sidekick Vanellope, a glitchy avatar from the kart racer Sugar Rush. I personally loved Vanellope, voiced by Sarah Silverman; she was an adorable little potty mouth who just wanted to be accepted for what she was, and befriends Ralph in hopes of changing her life.
The main reason many older gamers will want to see this film is for the cameos of their favorite characters, and for the first twenty minutes there are enough to satisfy most people; after that, the story really starts and the cameos subside. The movie takes place in four distinct worlds: Fix-it Felix Jr, Ralph game and home to the hero Fix-it Felix Jr. and the Nicelanders (The peoples whose apartment building he wrecks). The in-game world shows its simplicity by being incredibly small, and only what the player sees through the cabinet glass. The world has only one building that Ralph wrecks, and the dump in which he lives.
The next is Game Central Station, which is cleverly the multi tap that all of the games are plugged into. This world allows characters to move between games through their power cords. Modeled after Grand Central Station, this is where you will see the most cameos. Third is the high-rez world of Hero’s Duty, a cross between Call of Duty and Halo that apparently accepts Skrillix as an actual musician. The last world, and my favourite, is Sugar Rush, a Mario Kart-esc world made entirely of candy. It is the attention to detail that I admire most in these worlds, especially all of the candy references in Sugar Rush, like Nes-Quik sand and Diet Coke Mountain. These worlds do not forget that they are games, and the traditional rules still apply, such as power-ups, cheat codes, and catch phrases.
The characters in this film can be a little one dimensional, but do evoke some feeling in the viewer. The want to be accepted and liked, which is a fundamental human emotion we have all felt at some time or another. That is the driving force that makes viewers like Ralph, despite him being a bit of a grump.
The conflict between Ralph and Fix-it Felix Jr. is a good one because the creators of the film decided not just to make Felix the big headed hero who everyone loves, but rather to make him the nice guy who just wants to do right by everyone. I am glad that the obvious choice for the real “Bad guy” wasn’t him, as it added just another character to root for. Felix feels responsible for his game and Ralph, so he goes on his own quest to get his bad guy back and save his game from being “Out of Order”
The voice acting is great and I loved Jane Lynch as Sergent Calhoun, the gun toting lead in Hero’s Duty with the heartbreaking backstory. John C Riley added a lot of heart and emotion to Ralph, and made the audience really feel for this big handed bad guy. There are a lot of other cameos in the film as far as voice acting goes, so see if you can name them while watching before you IMDB them.
Overall, I felt that this was a wonderful use of the gaming genre. The attention to detail will not disappoint hardcore gamers, and the story and characters will delight everyone else. I would highly recommend taking children to see this film, if only to have the fun of explaining what an “arcade” is. I think this will be a must buy on Blu-ray, and will be a family favorite for years to come. Let us pray that this is the start of a new era for video game-inspired films and a new hope for Disney, as they have just bought the rights to Star Wars, and I really hope they don’t wreck those.
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