Directed by: Rich Moore
Starring: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Adam Carolla
Pixar has proven that if you can craft an animated film built on nostalgia that you will bring the adult audience in right alongside the kiddos. The Toy Story franchise is all about growing up and letting loose of those childish things, but still remembering how wonderful those things truly were. The sense of magic and wonder is something that we often lose as adults and those movies brought it all back. Wreck-It-Ralph in many ways hopes to do something similar with videogames.
Wreck-It-Ralph is an 8 bit style arcade cabinet game where Ralph gets his home replaced by a new apartment building. He obviously gets mad and starts wrecking the building. The player plays Fix it Felix, the superintendent of the building, and he uses a magic hammer given to him by his father to fix what Ralph wrecks. After the arcade closes all of the game characters live in their own world via the power cables to the games. Everything changes when Ralph decides he’s tired of always being a bad guy and living alone. He decides the only way he can get in with the good guys is to win a medal. The only way he can accomplish this is by entering another game. And so from here, the story begins.
The first act of the movie worried me a bit because there are some really funny riffs on videogames with lots of cameo’s by popular game characters but the story meandered a bit. All of my worries were assuaged once Ralph made it into a game that is a cross between Mario Kart and a really hardcore anime style videogame. The real story starts here and from this point on the movie is just incredibly endearing. This is an all age’s film so there is a message, and a good one for youngsters. The message deals with people trying to figure out who they really are and how they fit in the world and moreover not letting others tell you what you are. This is an evergreen sort of message that fits every generation of youth. It’s not heavy handed at all though. The story is delivered with plenty of winks at videogame fans new and old and the characters are fairly well drawn and well-acted.
There are tons to laughs and the 3-D is also so well executed you might even forget that the movie is 3-D. You just literally become a part of this world. Oh along with the videogame jokes there is a myriad of riffs on snack foods that all of us, regardless of age are quite familiar with. Wreck-It-Ralph is the closest any animated film has come to that magical formula so perfectly crafted by Pixar. Those not in the know may even think this is a Pixar film. It’s heartwarming, really funny, action packed, and a joy to look at. Had the first 15 minutes had a little more focus on story and a little less on videogame winks Wreck-It-Ralph would have scored right up there with a film like Toy Story.
The human side of the film is focused on a videogame arcade. Now, it appears to be modern times because some of the games riffed are similar to Gears of War or Halo so we all know that there really aren’t any “arcades” left in most towns. Sure if you look around you might find one but they just aren’t prevalent in the modern pop culture zeitgeist anymore. The director misses an opportunity here to tell a secondary story about the sad loss of these truly special social gathering places that were popular in the 80’s for the youth, and they were the place to find the hot games. Without the arcade though a core arc in the story doesn’t work so this story is sort of in an alternative universe. It’s not a huge complaint but it is a little wonky. The film is pointed at kids as much as or more so than adults and how many kids have actually seen the inside of an arcade like the one portrayed in this film?
Don’t be led to believe that you won’t enjoy the Wreck-It-Ralph film if you aren’t a videogame fan because that’s absolutely not the case. The core story is a classic and very well executed. John C. Reilly brings so much character to Ralph that you can nearly feel him in Ralph’s body language. Sarah Silverman is more perfectly cast in this film than in any film she’s done to date and Jack McBrayer (30 Rock) absolutely is Fix it Felix. Jane Lynch is someone I usually don’t like but nearly every line she delivers cracked me up.Also, stay through the credits because the videogame songs are absolutely a riot and the closing seconds are a true nod to fans of 80’s 8 bit videogames. That joke actually may be lost on youngsters but they’ll still think its cool looking. Even with its flaws Wreck-It-Ralph is still the best animated film of the year (at least so far).