Review: Wreck-It Ralph

I take pride in my geekiness. I love video games. I play almost every new game on release day. I listen to video game soundtracks during the day. Certain games really grab my attention, and I learn everything about them, including in game histories, strategies, the lives of the developers, and basically everything else you can imagine. I really love video games. As such, I was pretty excited when Wreck-It Ralph was announced. Disney has a great history of treating their properties with care, so unlike basically every video game movie ever, I was not worried about this movie. I was right to feel that way. This movie was great. It was simply a lot of fun, and there were a lot of little things about it that I loved.

Wreck-It Ralph starts with a monologue from Wreck-It Ralph, talking about his game. He lives in Fix-It Felix Jr., a 30 year old arcade game where Ralph climbs up a building, destroying it as he goes. Along comes Fix-It Felix Jr., who climbs up the building after Ralph, fixing smashed windows and avoiding the bricks Ralph is sending down after him. Of course, Felix always wins and Ralph is unceremoniously thrown off the building and into the mud. Having done this for 30 years, Ralph is a bit fatigued. This is essentially the prologue to the story. Ralph soon stumbles upon a party in the building he destroys, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the game. After making known that Ralph doesn’t like the way he’s treated by the inhabitants of the building, one of the inhabitants challenges Ralph with an ultimatum: earn yourself a medal and we will treat you like a friend. This drives the entire story, which I will not spoil.

One of the draws of this movie for me is all the recognizable characters Disney managed to pull together. Bowser, Sonic, Pac-Man and the ghosts, Q-bert, and a bunch of others. It was done tastefully, with Disney giving the visiting properties all the respect they give their own. Of course, the shout outs to Halo (the space suits in Hero’s Duty), Call of Duty (again, Hero’s Duty), and Mario Kart (Sugar Rush) were noticed and appreciated. In addition, Disney paid a lot of respect to the spirit of video games in general with the design of their own new characters. Ralph is perfect with his amazingly out of proportion body, Felix with his balanced look and all important hammer, and Vanellope, a girl from Sugar Rush, with her size and style. Disney Interactive may not make the best video games, but Disney Animation knows how to design one well.

The soundtrack was nothing impressive, with the tension and emotion in all the appropriate places. Henry Jackman is no Hans Zimmer (The Dark Knight Trilogy), but his work is adequate. In contrast, the voice acting is perfectly casted. I can’t say enough about the casting of Jane Lynch (Glee, Two and a Half Men) as Sergeant Tamora. Her’s was easily the strongest voice performance in the movie. Her character, completely believable and likable with “the most tragic history in video games” and tough guy personality. John C. Reilly also knocked it out of the park as Ralph. I don’t think any one else could have done such a perfect cuddly big guy voice.

Having gushed about the visual design and atmosphere of the movie for a long time, there is finally the story itself. It is a fairly predictable story about Ralph’s journey to discover himself and what is important to him. The movie experiments a fair amount with the order of events in the story, and that certainly makes it more enjoyable. I experienced a pretty surprising moment towards the end of the movie. Hopefully you will enjoy it as much as I did. There wasn’t a whole lot of foreshadowing leading up to the end, so it should serve to be a surprise.

All the good things out of the way, there has to be something that I didn’t like about the movie. There weren’t too many things, considering that even if these things went right, the movie wouldn’t be that much better. The first thing that I noticed was that the majority movie takes place in four unique locations: Fix-it Felix Jr., Game Central Station (which was a stroke of genius), Hero’s Duty, and Sugar Rush. All of these places are very very well defined the second the story turns into them. The only thing that could have been different with that would have to be more locations. I do think Ralph’s journey could have been a lot cooler and had a lot more scope if he visited more games, although that would just scratch my itch of wanting to see more of the properties that I love the most. Which leads me to my second point. I wish Disney did more with the external properties, especially Q-Bert. I really really wish they did more with Q-Bert, mostly because I have fond memories of a Q-Bert handheld in my childhood years. Lastly, there wasn’t nearly as much witty dialogue as I wish there was. In the trailers, there is a line where King Candy says “You wouldn’t hit a guy with glasses, would you?”, and Ralph proceeds to take the glasses off and smash them over his head, taking advantage of the play on words. It was a very clever moment, but that’s actually the only time in my one viewing of the movie where there’s a witty phrase. Dreamworks does a little better with this than Disney; just watch Madagascar for a great example.

Over all, this movie was amazing. I loved the detail Disney put into each of the games and characters, and the voice acting was amazingly solid throughout the entire movie. Personal gripes aside, I loved it. It easily reaches up there as my favorite animated movie, although How To Train Your Dragon beats it out by the tiniest bit, on account of the theme. I would strongly consider it for the best movie of the year. (Although I have yet to see Skyfall or Lincoln. Hesitant about Lincoln. Been hearing there aren’t any vampires for Lincoln to slay…)

9/10 for Wreck-It Ralph. Highly recommended if you’ve loved Disney movies before or love video games.

BONUS: Before the movie begins, you will be treated with a new digital short from Disney. The last one was La Luna, which premiered with Brave. Wreck-It Ralph comes with Paperman, a wonderful story about a man searching for a woman that he met at the train station. Make sure to get to the theater on time so that you don’t miss it. It’s quite charming and visually interesting.

UPDATE: It’s been a day since I saw the movie, and it’s kind of invading my thoughts. Maybe it has to do with the very memorable credits song performed by Owl City and that I’ve been listening to Owl City all day, maybe it has to do with all the video game releases today with the launch of the Wii U, maybe it has to do with a game releasing this coming Tuesday that has Wreck-It Ralph as a playable character, but I think it has to do with the sheer creativity of the film. I am uncontrollably attracted to innovation and true creativity. Wreck-It Ralph hits the note for me. The last movie that did that for me was TRON: Legacy, mostly because the soundtrack for that movie (Daft Punk) is the best soundtrack I’ve ever listened to. But, in both movies, they have such a huge atmosphere that I wish I could take part in. With TRON, it was the promise of bending the world to your will and creating new things. With Ralph, it is the audacious environments and incredible diversity in each game. I would love to live in a world with such a huge range of imagination. I truly cannot wait to see this movie again.

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