My wife and I wanted to see a movie a week ago. After considering Argo, Cloud Atlas and Flight, we settled on Wreck-It Ralph. It looked fun, featured recognizable video game character cameos, had some familiar voices and was a Disney computer-animated film, so it had a lot going for it.
I think it’s fair to say that our expectations were mostly met. The film is set in an arcade and follows Ralph (John C. Reilly) who is a “bad guy” in his game Fix it Felix, Jr., as he fights his bad existence and tries to be a hero. Wreck-It Ralph takes a page out of Toy Story in that, when the arcade is closed, the game characters “come alive” and are free to live lives beyond the boundaries of their arcade monitors. Characters even travel from game to game via “Game Central Station,” which is basically the electric wiring system of the arcade.
In his effort to be a hero and win a medal, Ralph does the unthinkable and abandons his game during operating hours for the arcade. He finds a medal in first person shooter game Hero’s Duty and he gets transported to Sugar Rush, a racing game populated by cute little girl racers and candy landscapes. While he’s there, he meets Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), a “glitch” in the game who steals his medal to enter a big race and prove that she’s not a glitch after all.
Also appearing in the adventure are King Candy (Alan Tudyk) the ruler of Sugar Rush who is attempting to stop Vanellope from racing, Fix it Felix, Jr. (Jack McBrayer) the aw-shucks hero of Ralph’s game, and Sgt. Calhoun (Jane Lynch) a tough soldier from Hero’s Duty, bound to save Sugar Rush from a “cybug” that has traveled to the game with Ralph.
The animation is great, as expected. The cameos from games like Sonic the Hedgehog, Street Fighter, Pac-Man, Q-Bert, etc… are a lot of fun (though I probably missed a few little references since I’m not a big gamer). The other residents of the arcade, particularly the folks who live in the high rise from Fix it Felix, Jr., are creatively animated. The actors are perfectly cast for their roles. I also enjoyed the music, particularly that within the game Sugar Rush. It just sounds like it’s pulled right from a real racing game. I’m not going to fault the film for having the expected happy ending, though I will say that it takes a couple of darker turns that caused me to question whether to side with Ralph and also wonder just where the film was going to end up. This was something unexpected, but something that added to my enjoyment of the film overall. (As a side note, I’d love to see an animated movie like this take a dark turn that sticks, but I guess I’ve got to consider the kids) It’s an entertaining movie and even at 1 hour and 48 minutes, it doesn’t feel long at all.
As exciting as the premise of “Toy Story in an arcade” is, my wife and I both agreed that Wreck-It Ralph felt a bit limited in scope. We wanted the characters to travel to and from more games. The bulk of the action is set in Sugar Rush and the only other games we see for any length are Fix it Felix, Jr. and Hero’s Duty. The more I think about it, I understand the need to keep it small, otherwise the plot would probably get out of control. Still, it might’ve been fun to see Ralph jumping from game to game and dealing with different gameplay styles and gameworld designs. Of course, this is something we may see in the sure-to-be-forthcoming Wreck-It Ralph 2. I’d personally welcome a sequel to this film, as I think there is a lot of potential for the world of Wreck-It Ralph to expand.
Ralph was preceded by an animated short entitled Paperman. I usually enjoy the Pixar shorts and I was really loving this until about 3/4 of the way in, when it went in a direction that I wish it hadn’t. Still, it’s enjoyable, creatively animated, and at 7 minutes, hard to really complain about.
A quick note about Disney Animation and Pixar, which I’d like to expand on in a future post, perhaps. With Ralph and 2010’s Tangled, I think Disney Animation has proved that it can hold its own against Pixar (despite their affiliation, I’ll make this a competition). I liked Toy Story 3, I couldn’t bring myself to see Cars 2 and I was disappointed by Brave, though I didn’t dislike it. With Pixar set to release Monsters University next year, another sequel (or actually, prequel, to the only other Pixar movie I haven’t seen, Monsters Inc.), I wonder if they’re becoming mired in existing properties. Disney Animation is slated to release Frozen next year, a musical-fantasy-comedy starring Idina Menzel and Kristen Bell. It is a loose adaptation of a Hans Christian Anderson story, but it’s a new story for Disney Animation. I don’t know if next year will crown a “winner” between the two animation studios, particularly with more original content on the way from Pixar, but I’m excited to find out.