★ ★ ★ ★ out of 5 buckets | Matinee and DVD
Rated: PG Some rude humor and mild action/violence
Release Date: November 2, 2012
Runtime: 1 hour 41 minutes
Director: Rich Moore
Writers: Jennifer Lee, Phil Johnston, John C. Reilly
Cast: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Ed O'Neill, Dennis Haysbert, Mindy Kaling
SYNOPSIS: The villain of a classic video arcade game, Wreck-it Ralph, finally tires of being the bad guy while his game nemesis, Felix Fix-it, Jr. gets all the adoration of the game's citizens.
REVIEW: Small screen Drawn Together and Futurama animation series director Rich Moore takes to the big screen with his animated version of what happens inside video arcade games. Cedar Rapids and A Thousand Words writer Phil Johnston, along novice scribe Jennifer Lee and some input from John C. Reilly, creates something of a mash-up between the likes of Tron: Legacy and Toy Story 3.
Wreck-it Ralph (John C. Reilly, We Have To Talk About Kevin) has spent thirty years with the singular mission to wreck an apartment building filled with people. Never fear, though, because Felix Fix-it, Jr. (Kevin McBrayer, A Thousand Words) and his magic golden hammer is on the job to repair Ralph's structural damage and save the building's residents.
Every time Felix wins a medal for completing the level, Ralph is thrown off of the top of the building into a mud pit. Wreck-it Ralph is an arcade video game. When the kids leave the arcade for the day, the characters in all of the video games lead their own lives. The problem is Ralph does not want to be a villain anymore. He just wants to move out of the trash dump and into the apartment building, and to be liked by the other residents. When Ralph confronts the other game characters during Felix's anniversary party, Ralph comes up with the idea that winning his own medal will make the others like him just like they do Felix.
He ventures out of his own game and into another in search of a level medal that will solve his problems. He ventures into 'Hero's Duty' to fight for a medal, only to be thrown into another game, 'Sugar Rush', where he meets a glitch character Vanellope (Sarah Silverman, The Muppets) who just wants to win the big race in order to be accepted by her own game's characters. But Ralph's absence from his own game when the arcade opens and actions in the other games he goes to may mean trouble for not only 'Wreck-it Ralph' but for the others, as well.
Disney's Wreck-It Ralph is a clever animation that will delight both kids and adults alike. For the kids, the world inside of the arcade games is colorful and varied, bringing to true animated life the 8-bit landscapes of 'Wreck-It Ralph' and the hi-definition renderings of fierce Halo-esque soldier Calhoun (Jane Lynch, The Three Stooges) and the insectoid virus-ridden craggy battlefield of 'Hero's Duty'. In between is the almost too-sweet 'Sugar Rush' which is a candy land go-cart racing world akin to 'Mario Cart'.
For the adults, there are nostalgic references to childhood favorites like Qbert, Pac-Man, Frogger, Tapper, and Street Fighter - all the games we enjoyed either in an arcade, at Chuck E Cheese, or in the comfort of our living rooms in front of an Atari, Nintendo, or Sega game console. Also included are references to adult themes like support groups (for video game villains) and 'random' villain profiled searches in Game Central Station.
The clever does not stop there. As Ralph travels from his own home game of 'Wreck-It Ralph' to the pub of 'Tapper' to seek advice from the game's bartender, slips inside the first-person shoot-em up adventures of 'Hero's Duty', or follows his missing medal into the sugary sweet world of 'Sugar Rush', Ralph takes the audience through well stocked and completely visualized world. We are not stopped at the pixels' edge because we have reached the end of rendered code. Game Central Station may be nothing more that a power strip to us, but the electrified ghosts in the machine use each plugs connection as a bridge to another land.
While we travel primarily through 'Wreck-It Ralph', 'Hero's Duty', and 'Sugar Rush', I would have loved to see more! Sure we see a villain support group in 'Pac-Man's' ghost base, but what could have been waiting for Ralph in 'Frogger', 'Asteroids', or other arcade favorites?
The flick seems so straight-forward on the surface. A bad guy wants to be as accepted as a good guy. Seems simple enough! But while Ralph goes in search for a level medal that he hopes will make him accepted by his peers in his game, more sinister mechanisms seem to be afoot. Ralph's tour of duty in 'Hero's Duty' may have deeper repercussions in other game play. And while Ralph has a love/not love relationship with Vanellope, something is so sweet that it is rotten within the 'Sugar Rush' kingdom to make Ralph wonder why King Candy (Alan Tudyk, Ice Age: Continental Drift) and the rest of the racers are so set against Vanellope racing at all.
As with almost every Disney animation, the audience will smile and will be on the verge of tears. Sure, no animated mothers or fathers were harmed in the making of this video game movie (a la Bambi or Finding Nemo). The code that bonds Ralph to the misunderstood Vanellope, and Felix to the tragic back-storied Calhoun make for great story and characterization.
These heroes and villains are as familiar as the joysticks, roller balls, and shoot buttons we were raised on, but with a twist that makes them more than just two-dimensional extensions of our 'jump-jump-up arrow-shoot-left arrow' commands.
Wreck-It Ralph is a lovely cross between Tron and Toy Story, combining the hidden unknown worlds of the binary universe and what happens when real people are not watching. Great for kids and adults, this is a film that you will not mind adding more quarters to.