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Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

| December 7, 2012 | 0 Comments

Disney’s new animated feature Wreck-It Ralph is written and conceived by people who have thought a lot about video games.  They have obviously put a lot of thought into what life must be like on the other side of that screen and what they create is a dizzying display of creativity and imagination.  They imagine what a fun and colorful world video games must be on the inside, but also what a confining space it must be for your garden-variety villain.  How sad can it be if you’re station in life is one of violence and destruction.  What must life be like if your function is to be hated and reviled over and over and over and over.

The conceit of the film, similar to Toy Story, is that once the arcade shuts down, the characters in the game have some down time.  We get a glimpse of the sad, lonely life of Ralph, (voiced by John C. Reilly) a bulky guy with massive hands that function well in a classic video game called “Fix-It Felix, Jr.”, which is not a million miles removed from “Donkey Kong.”  His job is to trash an apartment building, break bricks and smash windows while the game’s hero, Felix (voiced by Jack McBrayer), tries to fix the building before it crumbles to the ground.  Among the tenants of the building, called Nicelanders, Felix is a hero while Ralph spends his nights sleeping outside on a pile of discarded bricks that have accumulated over the years.  On the game’s 30th anniversary, Ralph is dismayed by the fact that the Nicelanders have invited Felix to a party.  When Ralph tries to crash the party, he smashes the ceiling and the doorway just trying to get in.

Ralph goes, frequently, to a support group attended by other video game villains like Clyde, the ghost from “Pac Man”, Bison from “Street Fighter” and Bowzer from “Super Mario Bros.”  His supporters are helpful to explain that just because he is a bad guy doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy.  Ralph shocks the others in the group with the pronouncement that he doesn’t want to be a villain anymore.

So Ralph leaves his game behind and decides to get himself some recognition.  First trip involves a visit to a “Halo” type world where a medal is the top prize and he meets up with a tough-as-nails Space Marine named Calhoun (wonderfully voiced by Jane Lynch) who, we learn, has “The saddest backstory ever written.”  Then Ralph crash lands in a girl’s racing game called “Sugar Rush” where he meets a sweet-headed character named Vanillope Von Schweet (voiced by Sarah Silverman), a glitched character who is forbidden from being part of the race because the proprietor King Candy (voiced by Alan Tudyk) thinks that her presence will cause players to abandon the game.  In this world, the worst thing that could happen is for the game to be deemed faulty, unplugged and retired.  One of the great observances is that once video games are retired, some characters like Q-Bert and Coily become homeless.

Most of the movie takes place in the “Sugar Rush” world, a candy-coated landscape that keeps getting more and more inventive as the movie goes along.  The rolling hills are made of fudge and ice cream, while the trees are suckers and peppermint sticks.  Then there are smaller areas as Ralph and Vanellope visit an area of the game that was part of a bonus level that was never finished.  Later King Candy gets inside the strange world of the game’s programming and does a little creative maintenance.

Yes, the movie ends with the inevitable fight to the finish, but the movie is so much fun that it doesn’t really matter.  What is interesting is the way that the video game world sets up rules for itself that create the drama.  Much like Disney’s other video game world “Tron”, there is a danger to spending too much time wandering around.

The best thing about Wreck-It Ralph is that the film’s burst of imagination come from the writing, not the marketing department.  It is sharp and funny and the credits of the writers are probably the reason why. Rich Moore and Jim Reardon got their start on “The Simpsons” These writers have played a lot of video games and know what fans might expect.  This is probably the best animated feature this year to get a major release this year.  It is right up there with Brave in its creativity.  It isn’t as funny as Hotel Transylvania, but it is much better for your kids than the dreary ParaNorman or the ho-hum Rise of the Guardians.  Here is a world so full and so detail and so much fun that you’ll want to go back again to catch all the stuff you missed the first time around.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2012) View IMDB Filed in: Animated, Kids