(Unlocking the Code for Unlimited FUN) Wreck-It Ralph Review

Wreck-It Ralph Review
by Bret Dorman

Does Wreck-It Ralph count as a video game movie? Sure its a movie about video games and the Toy Story meets Tron-esque world that occurs when the arcade closes… but Fix-It Felix Jr. is not a real game. Movies like Doom, Mortal Kombat, and Resident Evil are all movies based off of actual video games and have to deal with adapting their stories into cinematic narratives. Wreck-It Ralph on the other hand uses video games as a landscape and creates a story where the actual plot points are inspired by video game culture, but not necessarily the Fix-It Felix plot itself. Either way, there’s plenty of chuckles, charm, creativity, but most importantly, cameos!

Ralph and the essential cameos.

The Story: Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) is the badguy in the game Fix-It Felix Jr. He decides one day he doesn’t want to be a badguy so he ventures out of his own game. He meets Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch) who is in the game Hero’s Duty and fights bug based baddies. Then he meets Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) from the game Sugar Rush. She wants to be a racer but has a little coding problem. Felix (Jack McBrayer) has to chase after Ralph to bring him back to their game or they’ll be considered defective and unplugged. Ralph learns lessons while helping people and maybe saving the day… or perhaps he wrecks everything! Also, there is a Metal Gear Solid reference. Boo-ya.

Even though this movie is not Pixar, it has some of the trademark Pixar elements (The Pixar Braintrust is thanked in the credits and John Lasseter is Executive Producer and other Pixar peeps are involved in some way I’m sure). The Pixar formula is basically spend 20 minutes or so establishing the routine of the main character, then introduce something that sends them on a crazy chase of sorts. Disney’s trademarks are apparent too; the main character is a lower status character seeking an object that will transform his life into a better place although really he/she learns that if they are themselves they are better off regardless. Speaking of trademarks, I’m sure Disney is one of the few companies that could pull off all the cameos in this movie (although Mario, the most famous and obvious video game character does not make a cameo. Rumor has it Nintendo wanted too much money, although Disney respectfully suggests they just couldn’t find a natural spot for him in the film).

Cool 8-bit poster. So retro!

My theater was filled mostly with 18-35 year olds. Obviously kids will enjoy the silly fart jokes, Sugar Rush’s Candy Land-esque world, and Sarah Silverman’s annoying spunky character (note, she may be annoying but she earns her heartstring moments earnestly). The adults though will appreciate the references, homages, and overall video game culture that saturates the actual plot as well as small touches. The movie moves fast for the first half, where most of the cameos take place, as Wreck-It Ralph hops from game to game. The second half settles mostly into the game Sugar Rush and Ralph’s relationship with Vanellope. I’m sure some will be disappointed but really, I appreciate all the fun the first half has, but like how the second half starts laying down the charm and story while still remaining silly.

One of the problems with most modern day movies is the audiences expect something new, but like seeing the same thing. One of the ways Hollywood has expertly adapted to this is to create formulas. We all know there are only so many versions of so many types of stories. Everything is similar to something else. So the formulas are around to give people that familiarity they like so much. The general public goes to movies to escape the troubles of their lives and have some fun. That’s why some of the biggest laughs in this movie are simple references. Simply seeing Bowser will get a huge laugh. What Wreck-It Ralph does is stick to this formula very closely, but expertly fills in the blanks with both genuine creativity and old school game characters. Minor touches like a surge protector security guard are abound while the three main games are all fictional. Without ever deviating the actual plot points and story beats from the classic “Underdog” and “Believe in Yourself” formulas, Wreck-It Ralph manages to still feel fresh.

Four main characters.

There’s some small things in the movie I really liked, such as the fact Ralph doesn’t pick a grudge with his video game’s main character adversary, instead holding a strange and intense grudge against one of its background characters. Or how much Ralph and Felix really rely on wrecking and fixing as part of their character traits without it ever seeming overboard. And the character of King Candy could have been tedious, but an unrecognizable Alan Tudyk makes it just silly enough. One confusing thing for me was there was a lady sitting a couple (empty) seats away from me who was about my age (26) and would very audibly “awwww” at anything and everything cute, sad, or uplifting like she was flipping through a calendar full or puppies and kittens. It was almost as if she had never seen a movie and didn’t know it wasn’t real. She was REALLY enthusiastic about the whole thing. But that extra spice is part of seeing it in theaters and the magic of Disney, making adults feel like kids again.

In Conclusion, I went in having seen some of the trailers. I was looking forward to the cameos (although expect a lot of them to essentially be in the trailers, which is kind of obvious) and a bit weary of the played out kids jokes (the little girl mimicking Ralph). I’m happy to report Wreck-It Ralph is a blast. Because it manages to both stick with the familiar and stay original, I can envision myself watching this several times over, while taking notes, and having fun.

Final Grade: A-

Cool Spanish Poster featuring the cartoon-y character wall outline crash.

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