So this post has been a long time coming. I actually saw Wreck-It Ralph in theaters with a friend back in late November/early December or so, and I meant to post about it shortly after… but, you know, life intervened. And laziness. And… well, I’ll get back on topic. Point is, it’s a fantastic movie, one of Disney’s best animated features in a while (that wasn’t made with Pixar, of course), and very worth seeing. I’m hoping the DVD will have some really good bonus features, and, more importantly, that it’ll have the beautiful animated short that played before the movie, Paperman. But I’ll leave our lanky, black-and-white animated friend for another post (look, it’s a fantastic short and it was nominated for an Oscar. It deserves its own post).
So, Wreck-It Ralph. The film is just perfect for an avid video gamer like myself, full of homages and references to, and characters from classic arcade games like Pac-Man and Q-Bert, as well as timeless franchises like Mario and Sonic. It’s also chock full of fan-favorite genres, from the basic platformer gameplay “Fix It Felix, Jr.” (similar to the arcade classic Donkey Kong) to kart racers like “Sugar Rush” or first-person shooters (in the familiar arcade “rail-shooter” style) like “Hero’s Duty” — which is in itself an homage to modern alien-blasting games like Halo. There are countless inclusions of video game tropes, running the gamut from gold coins, jumping sound-effects, choppy movement (in retro-style environments like Fix It Felix, Jr.) — really the list is almost endless, and it would take one more astute than I to compile a complete list of the references, homages, and tropes used in the film.
At this point you might be wondering how all of this can come together to make anything more than a nerd’s wet dream. But fantastic voice talent — including the perfectly cast Sarah Silverman as the adorable Vanellope von Schweets — and equally fantastic writing managed to make a film that’s both full of nerdy goodness and still a great film for children and parents alike — as well as hordes of video gaming college students.In a calculated move, the story takes on the rarely attempted task of creating and following a sympathetic villain — a concept that gamers have often requested, but are almost never given.
Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) is the villain of Fix It Felix, Jr., and he’s tired of his bad rep and his lonely life. He’s a pretty nice guy, just like the other villains in the support group — a sort of AA style gathering that includes Bowser from the Mario games and the ghost from Pac-Man. So Ralph decides to change his fate once and for all. On a plot full of surprising twists and new-found friendships, Ralph does his best to prove that even though he has a day-job as the villain of the game, at heart he’s just a big teddy bear. Hyperactive, slightly annoying, and totally adorable Vanellope becomes his redeemer when all hope seems lost. Shenanigans ensue, twists are revealed, heartwarming and heartbreaking stories are told, and a satisfying ending is reached. Surprisingly for an animated movie, the story isn’t contrived, and everything really feels tight and polished; there are little to no clichés to be found in this cartoon.
All in all, I really do recommend this one, and it’s not too often these days that I can say that about an animated movie that isn’t from Pixar. But as a gamer, writer, and film-lover, Wreck It Ralph was truly a triumph of epic proportions, bringing to life all of the dreams any gamer has ever had in the most vivid possible way. In what may be a first for me on this blog, I can say with confidence that anyone of any age can easily enjoy this movie, and if you haven’t seen it or haven’t felt an urge to do so, I strongly recommend that you do.