Movie Review: Wreck-It Ralph
Length: 101 minutes
Release Date: November 1, 2012
Directed by: Rich Moore
Stars: 4 out of 5
The latest offering from Walt Disney Animation Studios is an energetic blend of old favorites and updated elements. Although joysticks and consoles have been a significant part of American childhood for decades, there have been surprisingly few mainstream family movies about video games. No movie has really done for video games what "Toy Story" (1995) did for toys or "Monsters, Inc." (2001) did for imaginary monsters. "Wreck-It Ralph" aims to change this trend. For the first time, the inimitable Disney lens zooms in on the world of arcade games.
Like many Disney protagonists, Wreck-It Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) struggles with self-acceptance. Living at Litwak's Arcade seems like it should be all fun and games. However, fitting in can be hard for video game villains. Ralph never asked to be the bad guy, but he does his best at his job. The problem is that his job involves constantly trying to beat the hero. As a result, all the other characters in his game turn their backs on Ralph. Ralph tries to deal with his loneliness and insecurity by attending villain support groups. Still he can't stop imagining what it would be like to be Fix-It Felix, Jr. (voice of Jack McBrayer). Friendly and popular, Felix has the medals to prove his official good guy status.
When a new game shows up at the arcade, Ralph decides to stop moping around and do something to change his destiny. Desperate to win a medal and prove that he really is a hero at heart, Ralph leaves his own game behind and heads for a first-person shooter. For years, however, Ralph has been doing nothing but demolishing buildings and landing in mud puddles. The high-tech world of "Hero's Duty" makes him realize how behind the times he really is. Before long, Ralph makes a rash and impulsive decision that accidentally causes a whole world of trouble.
When he seeks refuge in "Sugar Rush," a frenetically cheerful racing game, Ralph meets a young girl (voice of Sarah Silverman) who understands exactly what he is going through. Like Ralph, Vanellope von Schweetz just wants to prove her worth to her snobby fellow characters. The two misfits form a reluctant truce and try to solve the problems that are now threatening the entire arcade. Meanwhile, back at Ralph's game, the other characters are starting to realize just how important the villain really is. Ralph will have to get serious if he wants to save the day, but that might involve rethinking the whole concept of good guys versus bad guys.
The movie benefits greatly from a range of distinctive voice actors. John C. Reilly brings the perfect level of lovable underdog charm to Ralph. Comedian Jane Lynch's sharp sense of humor perfectly suits Sergeant Calhoun, the no-nonsense leader of "Hero's Duty." Controversial comedian Sarah Silverman dials down her act to bring a cutely bratty quality to Vanellope, the perky glitch. Jack McBrayer's Southern-tinged accent gives Felix a likeable charm. The medley of unique voices makes each character a little more sympathetic and fully realized.
"Wreck-It Ralph" is sure to have video game fans in the audience smiling with recognition. The film features an impressive hit parade of arcade classics, including "Pac-Man," "Street Fighter 2," and "Sonic the Hedgehog." Naturally, characters from "Super Mario" also make cameos. It is a testament to Disney's creativity that the invented characters fit in seamlessly with the real deals. Audience members might leave the theater with a hankering to play "Sugar Rush" or try out "Hero's Duty."
In terms of visual appeal, Disney once again pulls out all the stops to offer a beautifully comprehensive and imaginative animated world. From the eye-popping, candy-coated landscape of "Sugar Rush" to the sleek, futuristic look of "Hero's Duty," each arcade game comes to life in rich detail.
Audiences always know what to expect when they go out to see a Walt Disney animated film. The themes may not be edgy or surprising, but the family-friendly movies consistently deliver feel-good plots that are clever enough for adults and approachable enough for kids. "Wreck-It Ralph" is a solidly enjoyable film that embraces big themes, like heroism, friendship, and self-acceptance, without getting preachy or saccharine.
Like the best family films, "Wreck-It Ralph" has a plot that offers something for everybody. Parents who grew up playing classic arcade games will love the little cameos and references, while older kids can relate to the sci-fi slickness of "Hero's Duty." Even the youngest kids will love the movie's energy, goofiness, and spirit of fun. Director Rich Moore blends nostalgia and new elements, resulting in a distinctive Disney ambiance.