Wreck-It Ralph (Movie) Review
Genre: Action, Animation, Comedy, Family
- Nostalgia for gamers - tons of video game references and cameos
- Fun for all ages
Not so much?
- Jane Lynch is her typical tough-female role
In Wreck-It Ralph, there’s sometimes more to the bad guy, then just being the bad guy.
As a long-time gamer, who began my love of video gaming back in the early 80s, I was immediately charmed by the idea behind Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph.
Wreck-It Ralph is the villain in a fictional arcade game from 1982 called Fix-It Felix, Jr.
Fix-It Felix, Jr. not only features the pixelated art work of the classic Donkey Kong, but borrows its concept, as well. Wreck-It Ralph (voice by John C. Reilly) is the villain, a hulking beast of a man, with huge arms and hands to smash and destroy. He is a loner who lives in a tree stump.
One day a bulldozer comes along, moves his stump to the city dump, and a large condominium complex is built on his land. This of course upsets Ralph who shouts, “I’m gonna wreck it!” He then climbs up to the top of the building, causing damage to it along the way. It’s up to handyman hero Fix-It Felix (in the Mario role, and voiced by 30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer) and his trusty hammer to climb the building and fix the damages while avoiding falling debris caused by Ralph’s rampage on the roof. Once the building is repaired, the building’s residents, rise up against Ralph, pick him up from the top of the building, and toss him off to the streets below. This has been happening every day for 30 years, and he’s ready for a change.
Wreck-It Ralph borrows a similar toys-coming-to-life from another Disney-produced film Toy Story. The only difference, obviously is that Wreck-It Ralph focuses on the “lives” of video games characters instead of dolls and actions figures.
When the local arcade closes for the night, the video game characters continue leading their lives. Like actors of a play, each character plays a role during the day, but once the arcade closes, they go about their “real lives,” sometimes comingling in Game Center Station, the electrical power strip that the arcade cabinets plug into.
In Ralph’s off-hours he’s still treated like a villain. He lives alone in the dark city dump, among a pile of trash and bricks. The residents of the condo continue their lives inside the building, and praise Felix. He even visits a support group for Villains featuring popular video game villains like Dr. Eggman/Dr. Robotnik from the Sonic games, M. Bison and Zangief from Street Fighter, and the orange ghost Clyde from Pac-Man.
When Ralph witnesses a 30th Anniversary celebration for Fix-It Felix, Jr, that he wasn’t invited to, he shows up and attempts to be a part of it. As expected, he only ends up making it worse.
He vows to become a hero, but in order to do so he needs to earn a medal.
He learns that he can earn one in the game Hero’s Duty, a modern-day first-person, on-rails, light gun shooter. It is here, during his game-hopping, that we meet Jane Lynch’s character Calhoun, a tough-as-nails space soldier in a game that feels like a mix of Halo and Call of Duty. The role is nothing new for Jane Lynch. It seems that he has become typecast to play the no-nonsense, lady drill sergeant for the rest of her life. Still she is entertaining, and helps add her usual dry and aggressive “ying” to the movie’s cutsey “yang”.
Ralph’s game-jumping has caused more problems in the game Fix It Felix, Jr. When somebody attempts to play the game and Ralph is missing, and the arcade cabinet is believed to be malfunctioning and gets an “out of order” noticed slapped on it. Without Ralph, the game could be turned off indefinitely and removed from the arcade. This means the characters will lose their home or possibly die. With Wreck-It Ralph missing, the video game ecosystem is in jeopardy!
Ralph is able to find a medal by breaking into Hero’s Duty’s final stage, circumventing what was essentially the game’s finale, but in the process ends up accidentally awakening the enemy bugs, and getting jettisoned into into another game Sugar Rush.
Sugar Rush is a candy-themed Mario Kart clone where the racers are all adorable female racers. Ralph meets Vanellope (voiced by Sarah Silverman), the game’s “glitch” who takes his medal, as a means to enter the game’s race for a chance to become the following day’s featured racer.
While the two start off as enemies, Ralph learns that he has more in common with Vanellope than he expected.
I took my two youngest kids, both boys ages 3 and 5, to see Wreck-It Ralph this afternoon, and we all agreed that we loved it. The animation is cute, the pacing was fast enough that the little ones didn’t lose interest during the “talking scenes,” the story was funny, and for me there were plenty of classic video game references that I really enjoyed.
The movie’s opening Disney “Steamboat Willy” black and white animation has been rendered in classic 8-bit pixelation. The closing credits are also a fun mix of different video game genres and styles, and the a credit roll itself reminded me of the opening to Mega Man 2, only in reverse.
I’ve always expressed that being a gaming parent means that I can use the kids as an excuse to continue to love and play video games. I didn’t expect that this benefit would extend to movies, like Wreck-It Ralph.
Wreck-It Ralph does a good job of offering something for everybody, no matter what (unfair) gender or age stereotype you may fit into. It tells a good story of a misunderstood “villain” who desired to earn the respect from the people who fear him. While it’s aimed at a young audience, it offers some fast-paced action scenes for those who like their game references to be a little more violent. Wreck-It Ralph features strong female roles as well as the cute princessy types. It has a good sense of humor that at times goes for the silly name-calling and potty jokes that gave my kids the giggles.
For the old-school gamers like me there were plenty of fun video game references, including Q*bert, Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Fighter II, and Metal Gear Solid.
I also thought that Sarah Silverman did a good job creating a likable and endearing character with Vanellope. Knowing that her normal comedy routines offer very blue and downright offensive jokes, she was still about to be edgy, in that elementary school poop joke way, without completely “selling out.”
As a gamer and a parent, I can’t recommend this movie enough. Even if you don’t have kids, I’d highly recommend making an excuse to go out and watch it. I loved it, and my kids did, too! I want to go back and watch it again just to try and spot the other video game references.
I also highly suggest this movie for the beautiful short titled “Paperman” that runs just before Wreck-It Ralph begins.