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 can 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. When the movie was first announced and teased on the web it gained a lot of buzz in the geek community but unfortunately that was the only community that truly locked onto the film. Ralph’s production budget was north of $165 million and by the end of its domestic run the film had only made $187 million. While this is profit you can hardly call it a hit. With that said the film did make a nice sum when you include the global take which totals the movie at just over $435 million. It’s unknown how much more money was put into the film for that foreign distribution and marketing though. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it over and over; a box office success or failure doesn’t always define the quality of the film. Some great fikms just don’t get the attention they deserve.
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).
Wreck-it-Ralph is wholly a digital production so handled carefully a film like this one should look flawless on blu-ray, and this film was handled with care. To get technical the theatrical release of Ralph was a standard 2.35;1 and the home release has been expanded to 2.39;1.Why? Well it goes a little beyond me to answer that question. What I can tell you is all of the lines are hard with no aliasing or “jaggies”, colors are vibrant when they’re supposed to be and blacks are inky and still detailed. This is as flawless a CGI film presentation as I’ve seen, well since a Pixar film. The 3-D here is also magnificent featuring a mix of some waggle vision and tons of fine details and subtle uses too. The video in the 3-D version of the film is brightened enough that when you put on the glasses the colors are still vibrant and the diversity of color palette is still well represented even though those glasses can often wash out colors. You might even find with a home viewing of the film in 3-D that you’ll notice things you missed in the theater. I did. For instance the exhaust of the vehicles isn’t just generic dust, take a close look. There are some instances where the film is purposefully in 2-D and then changes to 3-D to show a difference in two different worlds and the effect is fantastic. The film in 2-D or 3-D is utterly beautiful but it is obviously meant to be enojoyed in 3-D and the execution is perfect.
The film is presented in a DTS HD Master 7.1 track. There are a few other options I was expecting but this presentation is action packed and immersive. Ralph travels through several different game worlds and each game has a variety of audio changes as well as those visual ones. The 8-bit music and sound effects of Ralphs’ world play in heavy contrast to those of the Medal of Honor/Halo style game he fights through and finally the cart racing world where the majority of the film takes place.
From fireworks to the kid friendly vroom of the carts to the dangerous weapons of Heroes Duty the audible experience of this film is spot on. Dialogue is crisp and clean throughout the film and use of special audio is handled perfectly. Trains whiz by in the game central world and fireworks get a chunky hit of bass when they explode. This film is just a joy to listen too.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The multi-disc set comes packaged in a standard amaray case with a slipcover. The art on the slipcover is the same as on the actual cover except that it’s a 3-D presentation. It’s a fun character group shot that works well but I do wish there was a version that featured some 8-bit style of art. Also, why is it these days the slip covers look cooler than the actual covers?
The now Oscar Winning Paperman digital short film is included here and I couldn’t be happier.The film is pretty predictable story wise but it’s cute and very well executed. This is the only bonus feature that’s available both on standard DVD and blu-ray. The remaining bonus features are blu-ray only.
Disney has crafted a fun feature for pausing the film called “Disney Intermission”. Have you ever gotten annoyed pausing a movie while someone gets a sandwich or has to go to the bathroom? You won’t with this film because when you pause the film special little snippets appear that delve into all of the Easter eggs hidden in the film including but definitely not limited too little Walking Dead goodies. While there’s no depth here it’s still a lot of fun.
There’s an all too brief featurette about creating the worlds of the movie and some of the technology used, some deleted scenes, and some fun videogame commercials. That’s really all we get here. A film of this quality deserves much more attention in the bonus features department and hopefully we’ll get a better set of documentaries on the inevitable re-issue that will come when the sequel hits theaters. There needed to be a director’s commentary and definitely some more making of stuff.
Wreck-it-Ralph has a few flaws in its storytelling but for the most part the film is just plain fun, kids can enjoy it and so can adults. What I love here is that Disney isn’t just resting on its iconic character laurels. With Ralph the studio has created a new IP that should bring more movies, games, probably TV shows and everything else that Disney has done so well with their classic characters.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
The Movie 8.5/10
The Video 10/10
The Audio 10/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features
Overall (Not an average) 8/10