In this modern age of console, p.c., and mobile video games it’s easy to forget the days of my youth when the video arcade was king. This is not to say that we didn’t have gaming systems of our own but an Atari 2600 and PlayStation 3 are about as similar as one of Henry Ford’s model T’s to a fully loaded Mercedes.
Suffice it to say I remember very clearly when video games were only a quarter, and how timeless classics ranging from Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, and countless other arcade treasures became cultural icons as well as school yard conversation topics in the pre-Internet days.
Walt Disney Studios have crafted an amazing visual spectacle that combines numerous references to gaming greats old and new with their new movie “Wreck-it Ralph”. The film stars John C. Reilly as Ralph, the villain of a very popular arcade game called Fix it Felix. When the arcade closes for the evening Felix Jr. (Jack McBrayer), and the other residents the game enjoy carefree life of companionship and socialization while Ralph is relegated to a pile of bricks in the town dump and forced to watch the frivolity enjoyed by his workmates from a distance.
His only relief comes when he travels to a central gaming hub and enjoys the company of other gaming villains in a support group. During one such group, Ralph drops the shocking revelation that he wishes to become a hero. Not only does this disclosure shock his fellow gaming villains but the cast of his game, one of whom taunts Ralph to go off and win a hero’s medal elsewhere.
Undaunted, Ralph sets off and finds himself in a brand-new 3-D shooter called Heroes Duty. It is here that Jack meets Sgt. Calhoun (Jane Lynch), a grizzled and bitter veteran who’s been programmed to have the most tragic back story ever developed for gaming persona. Despite his bumbling actions, Ralph achieves his medal and plans to returns to his own game in triumph. Unfortunately in the time that he is been away, the arcade owner believes that his game is defective since Ralph is missing from it and labels the game out of order.
This is a terrible situation especially for older game, as once a game is un-plugged, all of the characters contained within are lost forever. On his way back to his game, Ralph finds himself in a colorfully festooned sugar and treat filled racing game as he attempts to retrieve his medal and set things right unaware that an even bigger threat is looming that threatens all the game characters in the arcade.
Assisting Ralph is Vanellope von Schweetz, (Sarah Silverman), who is an impish glitch that Ralph views as a kindred spirit as she is also ostracized by her fellow game cast. With the gigantic race looming, and the loony King Candy (Alan Tudyk), making things difficult Ralph must rise up and become more than he ever thought he could be to save the day.
The 3-D animation the film the spectacular but what really makes the movie is fine performances by Riley, Lynch, and Silverman, as well as the amazing supporting work by Tudyk, McBrayer, and the rest of the cast. The jokes are extremely clever and come at you at a fairly steady pace. The film was nearly 2 hours in length so parents be warned that this and the PG rating might make things a little harder than usual for extremely young viewers.
There were several fantastic jokes that clearly went over the heads of many of the younger viewers during our test screening as they were geared at those who grew up with arcades and the original Nintendo console.
The film did have a few pacing issues but they were minor and did not as a whole take away from my overall enjoyment of the film. While it falls just short of being considered a modern classic, the movie is definitely one of the more enjoyable films of the year and one that I hope spawns several follow-ups as it was pure Disney magic and gaming nostalgia blended to perfection.
4 stars out of 5
Second Review by Joseph Saulnier
Who can resist a movie that’s about video games? Not this guy, and that explains why I saw Super Mario Bros. in the theater. The landscape of video-game based movies in the past decade has been a little less than desirable, with only a few breakout hits. While Wreck-It Ralph is not purely based on a video game, it is deeply enriched in the video game culture, and, as a gamer, I must say that this movie hit it spot-on!
Ralph (John C. Reilly), is a bad guy. And as the movie would say, that’s good! Well, to everyone except for Ralph. He is the antagonist for a game called Fix-It Felix. He feels isolated and cut off from everyone as he lives in the town dump, none of the other game characters want to hang out with him, and he is generally treated as a bad guy. He just wants to be liked, and so sets out on an adventure to win a medal just to prove he is more than just a ‘bad guy.’ Along the way, he gets help from other video game characters like Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer), Calhoun (Jane Lynch), and Vanellope (Sarah Silverman). When he meets Vanellope, he realizes he must help her to accomplish his own goal as she is a kindred spirit being an outcast herself.
Rich with pop-culture and video game references, “Wreck-It Ralph” is non-stop fun. I usually shudder away from phrases like that, but I can’t think of any other way to describe this film. It’s got great humor and references that children will understand, as well things in there just for the adults. Then there’s a third level, that gamers (whether casual or hardcore), will see through references littered throughout the film. The film also does an excellent job of bringing together video game characters from different genres, and even companies. You can see this right off the bat when the movie opens up with a Bad Guy Support Group that includes Dr. Robotnik from Sonic the Hedgehog, Bowser from Mario Brothers and even Zangief from Street Fighter.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this film and what it had to offer. The voice acting was tremendous, even shocking. I will tell you I was shocked at the end to find out who did the voice for King Candy. I am curious to know what you think! The story, while a bit recycled, seemed very fresh given the way it was presented. But in the end, this is movie is as close to perfection as I have seen in a while.
5 out of 5 stars!