If you’re looking for a movie that makes you feel old this year, look no further.
Seriously though, I’ve got to hand it to Disney for picking a very smart topic for a movie. The video-game generations of the 80’s and 90’s are now all grown up and taking their kids to movies like Wreck-It Ralph, so why not throw in a little walk down memory lane to get those generations interested in a movie they’d regularly only see because of their children. Me being 20, I was not appreciate some of these reference as much as someone ten years might senior might have, but luckily enough those bits of nostalgia were mere icing on a surprisingly satisfying cake. It still doesn’t have quite the same punch as classic Pixar, but Wreck-It Ralph combines emotionally rich characters with a surprisingly well-formed plot to easily rank alongside the best animated films of the year.
Once the lights go off at the arcade, all of the video game characters commence with living their own lives with each other, traveling through electric cords until the beginning of the next day. So it has been for 30 years for Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly), the antagonist of a now-retro arcade game called Fix-It Felix. Felix (Jack McBrayer) and the other residents of the game reject Ralph and treat him like a Bad-Guy, but Ralph is determined to prove that being a Bad Guy doesn’t mean being a Bad “Guy”. In order to do this, he convinces himself that all he needs to do is win a medal, and for that he must go out of his own game to find one. After getting one from the violent First Person Shooter “Hero’s Duty”, he is accidentally taken into Sugar Rush, a candy themed racing game, and his medal is stolen by pint size Vannelope (Sarah Silverman). While attempting to get it back, Felix and Marine Sergeant Calhoun from “Hero’s Duty” (Jane Lynch) do their best to find Ralph, save his game from disconnection, and eradicate a hive of Cy-bugs from Calhoun’s game that have made their way through to Sugar Rush.
Ok, so I will admit, I couldn’t shake the feeling of “This is just Toy Story for Video Games” for about the first 20 minutes of the movie (One of the scenes featured in the credits of the “Bad Guy support group” calls back to an earlier Toy Story themed short Disney made for The Muppets last year). While the premise does borrow heavily from that film though, the world that Wreck-It Ralph weaves around that premise functions as more than enough to set it apart.
Ralph is pretty standard protagonist for an animated movie, complete with a misguided goal and an eventual set of moral lessons that are learned as the plot develops. So I’m not going to talk about him. Instead, I’d like to mention the four supporting characters who aren’t so standard. First of all, we have Vanellope, who’s zany, smart-ass personality is mirrored in her status as a “glitch” in her game, making her an outcast from her fellow racers and guaranteeing that we are going to soon learn the importance of “being yourself”. Vanellope is definitely cute and fun to watch for the most part, but I often found myself not sure if I loved or hated the voice work that Sarah Silverman provided for her. I did feel like they could have made her a little less cutesie, though.
On the other side of the coin, we have King Candy (Alan Tudyk), the flambouyantly eccentric ruler of Sugar Rush with something of a Dark Side. It was definitely amusing to me when I found out that Tudyk provided the voice of King Candy, although it made sense after his ridiculous German accent in Transformers 3. I’ll admit, it was pretty cartoonish but seeing as I was watching an animated movie I ended up enjoying his character’s perfect level of over-the-top silliness. Last but not least, I did find myself being a little bored with Calhoun and Felix and the romantic subplot that develops between them, but maybe that’s because I’ve seen too much 30 Rock to hear McBrayer’s voice and think anything of anything else but Kenneth. Add Jane Lynch to the picture and it was just a bit too difficult for me to separate the animated characters in front of me from the voices I already knew so well. Although I’ve got to say that I loved the bit about Calhoun’s back story…
For the most part, the writing here really is above the cut for animated movies. It’s not trying to be anything deep or profound, and the tone it sets is usually one of occasionally winking sincerity. Unfortunately, this is a family movie so there are the usual amount of pratfalls and silly puns… oh the puns! Once we get into Sugar rush, the food related punnery doesn’t let up until the credits are rolling. Some of these are funny, but most of them were either too topical (A volcano of Mentos and Diet Coke) or too face-palmingly obvious (Nestle Quik-Sand) to feel like anything more than lazy writing to me. I did enjoy the amount of love the makers showed for the genre it features, look for a lot of obscure characters (Q-bert!) and some really inventive animation choices on the older game residents.
The Verdict: 7.0/10 Good
Reading back through my review, it does sound like I’m being harsher than I mean to be. Gripes aside, this really is a great movie to catch with your family, or on your own if you’re feeling in the mood. Sure, it’s not a modern classic and I personally thought it could have been a lot funnier, but it nails the heart of its characters in a way that we’ve rightfully come to expect Disney to do. I’d like to mention really quick that I loved the pre-movie short, “Paper Man”, a surprisingly warm and simple way to start the movie. I can’t remember the last time a non-Pixar animated movie managed to say so much without a single line of dialogue, and when you add in the top of the beautiful old-fashioned animation I was given a little hope that the studio still has plenty of quality to deliver.
Fast Film Reviews: 3.5/5
Dan the Man Movie Reviews: 8.0/10
The Daily Rich: (Positive)