As far back I can remember I have been a video game fan. I owned an Atari 2600 and various Atari computers back in the day, and I also frequented local arcades as often as I was able. And don’t forget the Nintendo days where everyone and their mothers were into Super Mario Bros. and Tetris. Wreck-It Ralph should have been a movie tailor made for me and other gamers of my generation, but it falls slightly short due to it not going far enough with its premise of taking place inside a video game.
Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) is the villain in the classic arcade game Fix It Felix, Jr. (Jack McBrayer), and after being the baddie for 30 years he begins to tire of his role. Intent on proving he’s not a bad guy he begins to hop from one video game in the arcade to another in an attempt to show everyone that he can be a hero. While in Sugar Rush (a girlie version of Super Mario Kart) he befriends Vanellope von Schweets (Sarah Silverman), an annoying glitch in the game that helps him in his quest.
First off, the voice acting is fantastic. I never once heard John C. Reilly behind the character of Ralph since he inhabited his part so completely. The same goes for Jack McBrayer as Felix and Jane Lynch as Calhoun in the Hero’s Duty game. But I have to give a special shout out to Alan Tudyk as King Candy. His voice is absolutely unrecognizable since he plays that part as a crazed Charles Nelson Reilly. The only real voice issue I have is with Sarah Silverman’s super high pitched deliveries as Vanellope. I think she’s a brilliant comedian, but she does tend to be a little annoying at times. I liked her manic performance, but I wished it was toned down from 11 to maybe an 8.
The animation is fantastic, including all the 8-bit sections of the game. It would have been cool if the characters that were all pixellated in their respective games actually looked like that as they moved about independently of their worlds, but I guess it was not meant to be. Regardless, everything looked sharp, fluid and colorful.
I have two main gripes. One is that the first half of the movie, which is pretty brilliant, revolves around Ralph as he tries to show his fellow Fix It Felix characters he’s not a bad person by searching through other video games for a medal that will prove he’s a hero. During those sections of the film I was enjoying myself immensely due to all the classic gaming references (“My Q-Bert is a little rusty… ‘@#$&!’”) and cameos by characters of days past (seeing the Burgertime guy and Dig Dug characters made me giggle like a school kid). But once Ralph makes his way to the Sugar Rush game halfway through and meets Vanellope the focus turns toward her and her desire to race regardless of her glitchy nature. While there are parts of this half to like and enjoy (anything with King Candy and his sour squire, as well as Felix and Calhoun’s scenes together) the story devolves into the typical Disney “be true to yourself” cliché and loses all the appeal of the set-up. Is it too much to ask that we get an edgy cartoon from this company once in a while? There’s a reason I don’t ever rush out to see their animated movies anymore because they’re all the same. It disappointed me that this fell into that same trap since it seemed to be going in a different direction at the start.
The other main issue is that Disney really dropped the ball on how far it took the classic video game references. The ones already present were awesome and featured characters I had forgotten about years ago. But when you, and I mean Disney, own a popular video game property, namely TRON, and choose not to include it in a film about video games you have to wonder that the hell they were thinking. That’s prime material for parody right there. Also, I’m glad that Nintendo loaned Disney some of their characters for use here, but where was Mario?! Killer Instinct?! DONKEY KONG?! There were lots of missed opportunities here that were wasted in favor of a lame recurring joke about Zangief’s underwear.
I also wasn’t a fan of the dumb subplot about Ralph contaminating the Sugar Rush game with aliens from Hero’s Duty. It really felt like a second thought and served mainly as a way to give Felix and Calhoun more screentime.
The musical score by Henry Jackman was pretty lackluster too. I’ve liked his scores to X-Men: First Class and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but this just sounds like your everyday generic kid’s film garbage. The Skrillex song used for the Bug Hunt segment was pretty rad though, as well as his animated cameo.
I sound like I’m ragging on this a bit much, but I really did enjoy this flick. It’s fun and fast paced and has that extra something for the geek in me. While it’s far from being as amazing as The Incredibles or Kung-Fu Panda it succeeds in being entertaining regardless of its overwhelming Disneyness. I recommend it, but there are better movies out there to check out first. But I’m sure the kids will love the shit out of it no matter what.
3 out of 5