Movies

MOVIE REVIEW: “Wreck-It Ralph” Has Got Game

My cousins were obviously thrilled to be a part of the blog.

 

I’m what you might call a classic video gamer.  My introduction into the world of pixel-based games was with pulse-pounding technology like the Commodore 64 and Atari 2600.

 

“Back in the day, we only had one button to press AND we had to walk to  and from school in the snow… uphill… both ways!”
That thing on the right is called a (say it with me now) “disk drive.”

 

Based on that timeline, it also put me squarely in the middle of the first major video game boom that brought us life-changing systems the likes of the Nintendo Entertainment System (aka NES) and Sega Master System.  Yes, doubling the amount of buttons from one to two on a controller constituted a video game revolution back then.

 

 

Names like Link, Q-bert, Mario, Sonic and Frogger were all household names when I was in my gaming prime.  While I do admit to currently owning a Wii, Xbox and PS3, the new complexity of video games have since left me behind the curve to the point where I really don’t even play what I own.

 

With new-fangled controllers that have more buttons and controller sticks than a commercial airline console, playing even the simplest game has become an exercise in brain surgery for someone who can barely chew gum and walk at the same time.

 

Enter Disney’s latest animated release, Wreck-It Ralph, which follows the adventures of Ralph, who much like myself, has become a relic within the world of video games.  Ralph’s lot in pixel life has him constantly breaking a building, for which in turn the human gamer tries to fix with a plumber-like helper.  Think Rampage mixed with Donkey Kong and you get the idea.

 

 

Thus it was only fitting that I saw the movie with my cousins Matt and Garrett, whom are brothers that have proven since the second they were brought into this world that there is nothing completely impervious from their path of destruction.

 

Much like Ralph as well though, they also have good hearts and don’t think of themselves as bad guys , nor do they want others to either.

 

As part of the game Wreck It Ralph, Ralph’s daily job is to destroy the Niceland apartment building occupied by none other than, you guessed it, the Nicelanders.  The hero role of the game assumed by the player is Fix-It Felix Jr.

 

Can you spot the ode to Duck Hunt?

 

However, when the arcade shuts down, every video game character from each game machine in the building takes on a life of their own and lives in much the same way we do… minus the fact we don’t travel through a surge protector that acts as a subway station between games.  However, characters do grab beers at Tappers and some of them even attend group therapy meetings for bad guys whom are on the edge of having a good-guy meltdown.

 

 

Unfortunately, bad-guys anonymous meetings don’t cut it for Ralph, and like a Baldwin twin just looking for acceptance, he sets out to change his lot in arcade life by attempting to make himself a bona fide video game good guy, despite the warnings not to.  (Trying to change the programming is a big no-no and dying in another game means a permanent end to your digital life.)

 

 

For those whom are Pixar fans – and this is NOT a Pixar movie for those wondering – you will immediately get that Toy Story feeling of play things come to life.  While that element is the same, the entire concept is still unique enough that it doesn’t come across like a Xerox copy.

 

In his pursuit of a shiny hero medal, Ralph befriends a much smaller pixel pusher named Vanellope (voiced by the sometimes annoying Sarah Silverman), who is having her own issues within the game she lives in called Sugar Rush.  The relationship takes on traits of a somewhat similar “huge & tiny friend” formula from a little Pixar blockbuster called Monsters, Inc.

 

Can’t you see it? Come on… look harder!

 

In addition, Ralph inadvertently opens up the arcade gates of hell by allowing an alien bug-like character into the Sugar Rush world.  The consequences of which could potentially shut down every game in the arcade as they know it.  For the geeky 13 – 15 year-old demographic, that IS the end of the world.

 

“Who are you calling little? Oh yeah…”

 

I will refrain from revealing any other spoilers from here on in as the movie is definitely worth a viewing if you haven’t already made it to a showing of your own.  Nevertheless, I will give you a brief level-by-level walk-through of why I enjoyed this animated flick so very much.

 

 

Nostalgia:  Much in the same vein as Shrek and Toy Story, W.I.R. employs the same formula of integrating characters from actual pop culture.  Seeing the actual characters from the worlds of Sonic, Mario, Street Fighter, Pac-Man, Q-Bert, Dig-Dug (plus many others) come to life was very well thought out and more fun than I even expected it to be.

 

Spare any change? Quarters only please.

 

In fact there were so many others I will need to go back for a second viewing just to see the vast amount of details I most likely missed.  What’s more, Disney went pixels-to-the-wall with this release by actually creating a Wreck-It Ralph Arcade game!  I seriously have to find and play this bad-boy somewhere.  (I’m thinking Disneyland soon?)

 

If there is something Disney doesn’t do, it’s take shortcuts.

 

Animation: Despite not being a Pixar power-house production, the computer animation was top notch and done in such a way that it fit the theme of the movie almost to perfection.  I really liked how any character or world associated with the newer arcade games were created with more detail to show the difference in how realistically some games have become over the years.

 

Anyone got any Raid?

 

The staggered movements of the outdated character graphics characters in the world of Wreck-It Ralph were quite funny and apparently I was the only one who picked up on it or found it even remotely funny… in the entire theater.

 

The designers created game worlds that truly popped… and caused cavities just watching it.

 

The Characters:  As was also done with Toy Story, the focus of the plot was put squarely on the original characters created within the fictitious games.  One of the most interesting tidbits I realized after the fact was that I honestly hadn’t been a real big fan of any of the main voice actors before entering this particular flick.

 

The only exception being Alan Tudyk (of Firefly fame) who voiced the sugary sweet Sugar King.  (I didn’t even know it was him until I viewed the credits).

 

 

 

 

 

My what big hands you have…

Outside of his amusing performance in Talladega Nights, I’ve always had an indifferent feeling about John C. Riley (Ralph).  However, as an animated character, he really brings great depth to Ralph and you can count me as a new fan.  He pulls off the bad guy that just wants to be loved angle with just the right amount of humor and heart.

 

 

 

 

My what big adorable eyes you have…

My apologies in advance to any Sarah Silverman fans out there, but I have usually found her to be on the more annoying side of anything she does.  Oddly enough, it’s just as much attributed to her looks as it is her acting style (don’t ask me why).

 

However, her bratty little kid personality works well for the part of Vanellope, and the fact her animated avatar is downright adorable takes care of the whole looks thing for me.  Minus a few moments where the whiny brat shtick almost reaches critical mass, I actually enjoyed this role for her more than anything else I’ve seen – and heard – her in.

 

 

Curves (and guns) in all the right places.

Jane Lynch (of Glee infamy… and no I’ve never watched it) portrays Calhoun, the tough as nails Halo-esque fighter from the game Hero’s Duty, whom provides the no-nonsense kick-butt element to the action.

 

 

 

 

 

The general contractor of Marios.

Rounding out the main hero group, Jack McBrayer (30 Rock… and no I don’t watch that show either) provides the southerly gentleman type personality to Fix-It Felix Jr., the 8-bit man with the magic hammer.

 

Both TV stars gone digital gave entertaining performances, but nothing earth shattering. Fun Fact: You’ll also notice that Ralph, Vanellope, Felix, and Calhoun all have certain resemblances to their human counterparts.

 

Little did I know that Ed O’Neill and Adam Carolla were also among the voice celebs to participate.

 

Heart:  I don’t mean the ones you collect to increase your health points, I mean the component of a movie that provides emotion and depth to any work.  While it’s not on the Kleenex-requiring level of Toy Story 3, Wreck-It Ralph truly surprised me in how much emotional oomph the film actually provided.

 

What a Duo! (And no, I ‘m not referring to the Nintendo arcade joystick of the same name.)

 

Major end-of-level extra points to Riley, Silverman, the animators and writers for being able to bring to life video game characters that an audience can actually become emotionally invested in.

 

Lastly, the message of just being yourself despite what others say you should be – while used as much as celebrity rehab in Hollywood – is a theme that is effectively used to make the movie more than just an excuse to cash-in on the popularity of video games.

 

Gratuitous multi-platform marketing shot.

 

In addition, I like the emphasis put on the fact that while many of us may not enjoy everything about what we do for a career, there are always positives to be found… it’s just a matter of finding them and sometimes trying to look at things from a different perspective.

 

For all of the above reasons, Wreck It-Ralph exceeded my expectations and went above and beyond the “Call of Duty” to become quite possibly one of my top three favorite computer-animated movies, right behind Toy Story 3.  Game on!

 

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