I love video games! I used to go to Chuck E Cheese and the local roller rink as a boy, and I always played the games they had. Since I’m in my mid-30’s, I’m quite familiar with early 80’s games. Pac-Man, Galaga, Burgertime, Elevator Action, Tempest…. the list goes on. So when I saw the trailer for Disney’s latest computer animated flick, I got really excited.
The movie begins by introducing us to an 80’s video game (a fictitious one) called Fix-it Felix Jr. It’s sort of like a Donkey Kong-like game as a bad guy named Wreck-it Ralph destroys a building, while the player controls Felix as he fixes the building. And then we’re introduced to what the video game world is like when the arcades close, which is kind of similar to TOY STORY when the toys come to life when no one is looking. The characters leave the game and go to some sort of central hub, where they interact with each other, maybe going over to ROOT BEER TAPPER to get some refreshments. We see video game characters from all different eras.
This is when we find out that Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) is not happy being a bad guy. He tries to be nice to the folks in his game after “work” hours, but they reject him. Ralph wants to be a good guy for once, so he leaves the game. He begins a journey to other games, hoping to become a hero. He first tries Hero’s Duty, which is kind of like a Sci-Fi Call of Duty, but it’s too scary for Ralph. He ends up in a colorful racing game called Sugar Rush. This is where most of the movie takes place as he meets the game’s glitch, Vanellope. She just wants to be a racer, but the others in the game reject her. Since they have a lot in common, Ralph decides to help her. But there’s more going on here as the King of the Sugar Rush kingdom knows a secret about Vanellope that he doesn’t want to be known.
This is, without a doubt, the best animated film so far this year. It’s a video game geek’s paradise, featuring countless references to games from all eras. I was having fun with my daughter trying to pick out all the different characters. There’s just so much pleasure in seeing Bowser and Qbert in the same flick, not to mention the chef from Burgertime. YES! And to have a key plot point involve Roadblasters…. genius!!!
But the movie is much more than just a bunch of obscure references for hardcore gamers. John C. Reilly’s vocal performance gives a lot of heart to Ralph. You want this guy to be accepted from the first moment you meet him. It’s a touching character arc. And then when he befriends Vanellope, an endearing relationship begins. I love underdog stories, and this one will have most folks cheering. The voice-work is top-notch. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch and especially Alan Tudyk (who is channeling Ed Wynn) as King Candy do great work. The writing is very clever. The animation looks fantastic. I also loved the music by Henry Jackman as he not only did the score but came up for the music for all of the video games. That was impressive.
And don’t worry about getting the video game stuff. Even if you don’t know Zelda from Sonic, you’ll have a great time. The movie is filled with boundless energy and imaginative worlds. The designs in the Sugar Rush game are extremely creative. The land is a sort of Candyland and I loved seeing how they used different desserts and candies to create the world. I also thought the subplot romance between Fix-it Felix Jr and a tough female soldier from Hero’s Duty was cute and often humorous. There’s also some good adventure to be found too, especially when some aliens from Hero’s Duty make their way into Sugar Rush.
This is a perfect family film. The adults are going to get a kick out of the video game stuff, and the kids are going to love it because it’s fast-paced, bright, colorful and has a great story. And video game geek of all ages are going to lose their shit over this. If WRECK-IT RALPH is not a huge hit, I’m going to be very upset and shocked. This is the perfect crowd-pleaser. I had a blast. Is it the most complex film I’ve seen this year? No. But it’s certainly one of the most fun. If you’re a gamer, have kids, or just want to have a good time at the movies, WRECK-IT RALPH is the sure bet this weekend. ★★★½ (out of ★★★★)
(and don’t miss the excellent short beforehand called Paper Man. It’s worth the price of admission alone)
(Also, make sure to stay until after the credits, for there is a special inside joke for gamers)
– Rated PG some rude humor and mild action/violence.
– Running time: 1hr 42min.