Saturday, November 3, 2012

Wreck-It Ralph - A Review

Ralph (John C. Reilly) is the bad-guy in the classic arcade game, Fix-It Felix Jr.  Kicked out of his rural home so that a fancy apartment complex could be put up, Ralph continually "wrecks" the building, only to have his work undone by superintendent Fix-It Felix Jr (Jack McBrayer), who can repair any damage with his magical golden hammer.  Ralph may be a bad guy but he's good at his job and he's largely content with it.  At least, he's content until he isn't invited to the 30th anniversary party for his own game and is mocked for his suggestion that maybe he should get a medal for being such a good bad-guy,

A half-baked plan leads Ralph into the realm of Hero's Duty - a Halo-style first-person-shooter where the player earns a medal by battling swarms of the all-consuming Cy-Bugs alongside the brutal Sgt. Calhoun (Jane Lynch).  When Ralph's bungling sets a Cy-Bug loose outside the Hero's Duty world, Felix, who needs Ralph to come back before their game is unplugged permanently, teams with Calhoun to hunt down Ralph and capture the bug. 

The two heroes follow Ralph's trail of destruction into the world of Sugar Rush - a game that combines Mario Kart's gameplay with the world of Strawberry Shortcake. Ruled by King Candy (Alan Tudyk, completely unrecognizable behind a perfect impression of Ed Wynn), it is in this world that Ralph befriends another outcast - the"glitch" Vanellope Von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman). Together, they will give Vanellope a shot at the Candy Cup and Ralph may find a way to prove himself a hero, even if he is a bad guy. 

Wreck-It Ralph attempts to do for classic video games what Toy Story did for action figures and dolls.  That fact, coupled with the story (which borrows equally from Toy Story and Monsters Inc.) and the computer animation, makes this seem more like a Pixar project than a traditional Disney movie.  But the definition of "traditonal Disney movie" has blurred a bit in recent years (technically speaking, The Avengers was a Disney movie) so perhaps it is more than fare to say that Wreck-It Ralph acknowledges its' roots in more ways than one.

Like Toy Story, the plot here is largely about the secret world our playthings experience when we're out of the room or the arcade.  Like Monsters Inc., the theme of someone basically good doing nominally bad things for a noble end is explored as well as the nature of duality and how good cannot exist without evil to define it.  Miraculously, Wreck-It Ralph does not seem at all derivative for that though it's world lacks the depth of development of those previous films.  This is largely due to a greater degree of character development and some particularly high-quality voice acting on the part of the core-cast. 

We see early on that Ralph, despite being a villain by trade, is one of the most moral characters in the arcade world, sharing his stolen fruit with the out-of-work game characters that everyone else ignores.  Fix-It Felix is a more complex hero than he seems at first, being clearly conflicted about how the other people in their game world treat Ralph but ironically being at a loss as to how to fix things.  Sarah Silverman dances across the line between brat and waif as Vanellope.  Indeed, the one exception to this is Jane Lynch, who doesn't have much more to do than play Sue Sylvester in Spartan Armor.  Thankfully, playing Sue Sylvester in Spartan Armor works amazingly well as a character choice and I fully expect that someone will have a hack for Halo 4 that allows you to play as a gun-totting, track-suit wearing Jane Lynch by weekend's end.

Long story short - I loved this movie and recommend it to everyone.  You'll laugh.  You'll cry.  You'll want to dust off your old NES and visit some old friends. :) 

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