Saturday, October 5, 2013

Wreck-It Ralph - 2012

"Wreck-It Ralph" - 2012
Dir. by Rich Moore - 1 hr. 48 min.

Official Trailer

by Clayton Hollifield

A clever idea goes a long way with animated movies, and "Wreck-It Ralph" is based on a very clever idea: what happens when the arcade closes?  Even better than that, instead of having a standard hero adventure through various video game landscapes, the protagonist is a video-game villain who is unhappy with how the other characters in his game treat him.  All of this adds up to a Disney movie that doesn't really feel like a "Disney Movie," which is about as strong of a compliment that I can offer.

Wreck-It Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) is the villain in the game "Fix-It Felix," which bears a strong resemblance to "Rampage."  Ralph breaks things (and he's really good at that), and Felix (voiced by Jack McBrayer) fixes them with his magic hammer.  But when the arcade closes, Ralph goes back home to live in a literal garbage dump, while all the other characters throw a 30th anniversary party without him.  Ralph decides to confront Felix at the party; just because he's the bad guy doesn't mean that they have to treat him like a bad guy.  Unfortunately, Ralph is too big and ends up accidentally wrecking things, and storms out of the party swearing vowing to win a medal so that he can also be a hero.  All of the video games are connected in a common world, so Ralph sets out to find a game where his particular skills can be useful instead of awful.

One of the great things about "Ralph" is that there are actual video game characters present.  It would have been possible to create knock-offs for all of it, and the audience would still know what was going on, but it's a small delight to see Q-Bert and Zangief in the same world as the fictional characters.  It lends credibility to the whole idea.  Also, the fictional game worlds feel pretty fleshed out, particularly in the case of Sugar Rush (a candy-themed racing game).  It makes me really want to play a game in these worlds (although a quick peek at Wikipedia suggests that the games based on this movie weren't anything special), and the idea behind this movie suggests almost endless possibilities for future installments.

To me, one of the strongest points was the decision to focus on a villain as the main character.  Although it's made pretty clear that Ralph isn't really mean-spirited so much as thin-skinned (and is constantly being put in environments that are simply too small for him to exist safely in), this runs contrary to what I think of when I think of a Disney cartoon.  Ralph isn't a princess, this isn't some far-flung exotic locale (at least not in the standard Disney mold), and it isn't really a romance story (Ralph's relationship with Vanellope, voiced by Sarah Silverman, is a father/daughter one, and the other romance story here is very much a side-plot).  The larger point is that Ralph doesn't fit in his world, and the people around him shun him as a result.  That's usually played for laughs, but Ralph's main motivation is that he's tired of being left out of everything, and that no one even thinks twice about it.  He's a villain out of convenience, not necessarily out of disposition.

"Wreck-It Ralph" is a solid movie, and holds entertainment value for more than just children.  Part of the appeal is the thoughts that any gamer has had floating through their head at some point: wouldn't it be cool if this guy was in that game?  There have been crossover games, but "Ralph" teases a few crossovers that make me wish for a new batch of games and scenarios.  But beyond that, the story is pretty good, the worlds are fleshed out well, and the entire idea is approached from a novel angle.  I wouldn't say that there was anything particularly special about the animation or voice work (other than John C. Reilly, who really makes you feel for his character, and I don't think that comes down to the writing or the animation), but the different worlds are handled well.  That adds up to a fun movie, and I'll keep my eyes peeled for the inevitable sequel.

3.5 / 5 - TV

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