Just because Ralph is a bad guy doesn't make him a bad guy. Disney releases their latest CG animated effort with the video game world-themed Wreck-It Ralph. Jeffrey Harris checks in with his full review.
Directed By: Rich Moore Written By: Jennifer Lee and Rich Johnston Runtime: 108 minutes MPAA Rating: Rated PG
Wreck-It Ralph - John C. Reilly Vanellope von Schweetz - Sarah Silverman Fix-It Felix, Jr. - Jack McBrayer Sgt. Tamora Jean Calhoun - Jane Lynch King Candy - Alan Tudyk General Hologram - Dennis Haysbert Mr. Litwak - Ed O’Neill Taffyta Muttonfudge - Mindy Kaling Turtle - Jamie Elman Sour Bill - Rich Moore Wynchell - Horatio Sanz Duncan - Adam Corolla Ryu - Kyle Hebert Ken Masters - Reuben Langdon Sonic the Hedgehog - Roger Craig Smith M. Bison - Gerald C. Rivers Maurice LaMarche - The Bartender
The first footage I saw for Wreck-It Ralph was at D23 last year. There wasn’t any finished footage just some animatics and some voice actor footage, but back then it had potential. It was a story about a classic videogame heavy who’s grown complacent in his role and wants to be recognized as the good guy for once. But more than that, the concept was taking you inside the arcade cabinet where the sprites and NPC’s are all living breathing programs that function much like we do. The hero of our story is Ralph (Reilly), an NPC villain from a classic 1982 videogame called Fix-It Felix, Jr. where Ralph wrecks an apartment building that Felix (McBrayer) fixes with his magic hammer. When the arcade closes, Ralph lives in garbage and squalor and longs for the adulation and respect Felix gets from the Nicelanders.
Ralph tries to cope by attending Bad-Anon, a videogames villain support group Ralph attends in the ghost box for the arcade cabinet for Pac-Man. There other videogame villains talk about taking things “one game at a time” and coping with being the heavies of their respective worlds. Ralph however just doesn’t want to be the bad guy anymore. After crashing a 30th anniversary party for Felix things get tense but Ralph gets the idea if he can win a medal than the Nicelanders will respect him and he can move into the penthouse of their building. First Ralph invades the first person shooter game Heroes Duty which doesn’t work all too well. Ralph goes out on his own and snatches the winning medal from the main tower the gamer has to ascend while wasting vicious cybugs. Ralph gets inadvertently stuck in an escape pod with a newly born cybug hatchling which rockets him into the racing game Sugar Rush.
Ralph going “Turbo” from his own game mucks things up. Without Ralph, Fix-It Felix, Jr. is considered out of order and the game risks getting unplugged. If a game gets unplugged, all the characters bite it in story terms if they haven’t transported to the safety of a surge protector. And if they survive, they are out of a job like other homeless game characters whose arcade cabinets have been unplugged in the arcade like Q*Bert. Ralph’s medal is stolen by the adorably sickening Vanellope, a glitching character from her own game. Vanellope uses the medal as a makeshift gold coin to get into an avatar qualifier for her own game. However since Vanellope is a glitch, King Candy (Tudyk) and the other racing characters hate her and want nothing to do with her afraid her glitch will turn gamers away from their game. Ralph seeing that Vanellope is a pariah and outcast not unlike himself decides to help her win her qualifying race, and when she wins he can get his medal back. However, there’s still the cybug problem as Felix and Sgt. Calhoun (Lynch) from Hero’s Duty need to find the cy-bug since if left unattended without a beacon they can destroy any environment they infest.
Being a big time gamer, I love the story and the world director Rich Moore and writers Jennifer Lee and Rich Johnston have created, essentially a type of storytelling and realm similar to Who Framed Roger Rabbit but with gaming characters instead of animated ones. However unlike Roger Rabbit the characters do not live outside of their electronic worlds and live as regular people like in Roger Rabbit. All the characters in the story are limited to whatever games are in Mr. Litwak’s O’Neill arcade. So don’t expect any Grand Theft Auto or Halo cameos. But Lee and Johnston have smartly figured out the ins and outs of their world extremely well. Surge protectors act as transport hubs for off-duty gaming characters with their own security guards and even bums (poor Q*Bert). Characters hang out in the bar in the Tappers videogame to get a drink. The center box for Pac-Man is where the villains hold their Bad-Anon meetings. The movie is filled with clever touches such as this not to mention classic videogame characters Nintendo, Capcom, Namco, and Sega brands.
The cast all do extremely well. Reilly, who has made a great career of playing the lovable lummox doesn’t get more loveably lummox-y here with Ralph. Lynch is purely awesome of Sgt. Calhoun with almost every one of her gruff and tough lines being a hilariously on-point one liner. Silverman is mostly tolerable as Vanellope, and Ralph even gets a semi-meta line in about Vanellope being “annoying.” I think it does work when the movie gets to those emotional beats between Ralph and Vanellope. Vanellope with her “glitch” is not unlike a kid with a disability, a speech impediment, a handicap, or a personality disorder. In that sense it works very well. My favorite of which is Alan Tudyk’s King Candy, his voice almost recognizable and doing an amazing almost imitation of the Mad Hatter from the Disney version of Alice in Wonderland.
In terms of CG animation, the movie looks fantastic. I still don’t much care for the 3D gimmick. It worked OK here but for the most part I still don’t really notice it. The world of the story, showing us the landscapes inside a videogame arcade world are fantastic. I’d only say I probably would’ve liked to see Ralph jump into a couple different games as well. But visually I found the animation and world much more appealing than Pixar’s last effort in Brave. Considering what could happen with maybe taking Ralph and his friends outside the arcade and into say the internet, the possibilities of the world created here are potentially limitless.
The 411: A true to form Disney family adventure with an appealing, charming, and extremely clever world inside our favorite arcade games. Wreck-It Ralph is a lot of fun and loaded with fun gaming references and cameos of our favorite characters. This is definitely one to check out and bring the kids as well. You can take or leave the 3D though.