Title: Wreck-It Ralph
Director: Rich Moore
Writers: Rich Moore, Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee
Starring: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch and Alan Tudyk
Runtime: 108 minutes
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Comedy
Ever since Toy Story wowed audiences in 1995, Pixar has been riding an unstoppable wave and usurped the throne of “Animation King” from Disney. While Disney had an impressive run from the late 80s to the mid-90s, they struggled ever since Pixar made an appearance. And while Pixar climbed higher and higher up that throne, Disney fell lower and lower. Granted 2010’s Tangled was an enjoyable movie, but it still felt like Disney was in a rut, reproducing their same old stuff and struggling to catch up to modern times. Then, Disney bought out Pixar in 2006 and it seems Pixar has been rubbing off on Disney – and I mean that in a good way. It appears Disney’s struggle is over. They have finally found their magic and Wreck-It Ralph has brought them up-to-date with modern culture and put some real potential into Disney Animation’s future.
Wreck-It Ralph tells the story of Ralph. Ralph is a bad guy in a game called Fix It Felix Jr. Even when the quarters run out, all the kids leave and the arcade doors close, Ralph is still exiled by his 8-bit colleagues as we go behind-the-scenes of this once popular arcade game. After 30 years of being the bad guy and receiving no glory for his contribution, Ralph has had enough. Ralph ventures out on a quest to find a “Hero” medal that promises to change his life forever and alter his role in his world.
The quest leads Ralph on an adventure that sees him jumping from game to game, on a wild ride to change his destiny. From a modern sci-fi shooter game, to a Candyland-inspired race game, Ralph finds himself a long way from home. Along the way he encounters another “misfit” game character, Vanellope von Schweetz, who may change his life more than the medal ever could.
The bigger magic of Wreck-It Ralph is how well and creatively Rich Moore and company recreate these video game worlds. With the ability to jump from one fantasy world to another, the movie is sheer eye-candy from start to finish. But it’s not just the eye-candy that makes this aspect appealing, it’s how Moore takes us behind-the-scenes of these games we love. At one point we see Ralph attend a Bad-Anon support group (led by Clyde of Pac-Man fame), only for us to find out that the meeting took place in the center box of Pac-Man as we’re treated to an overhead 8-bit view of the famous blue maze when Ralph leaves (snatching some cherries on his way out). Furthermore, Moore and company even touch on the little details that really help this “gimmick” along. Altering animation style a bit from game to game, we even see how the cartoony 8-bit characters of Fix It Felix Jr move in jagged movements, as opposed to the hi-def looking and smooth-moving characters of Hero’s Duty.
With references to games such as Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros, Frogger, Q-Bert, Street Fighter, Metal Gear Solid, Pong and more, Wreck-It Ralph is sure to have fellow gamers giddy playing “spot-the-reference”. We are even treated to the villainous King Candy using the Konami Code and, if you stay tuned long enough, the end credits will transition to a kill screen. But Wreck-It Ralph is so much more than a nostalgic clusterfuck of IPs that are sure to have fanboys squealing in delight. Rich Moore never allows Wreck-It Ralph to become so absorbed by its own gimmick that it doesn’t supply substance as well.
What really elevates Wreck-It Ralph from a good movie that is fun for those “in the know” to a great animated film for everyone is the humanity it brings with it. With a good story to go along with the gimmick, Wreck-It Ralph has depth that will provide fun for those who don’t even get all the video game references. The script provides a heart-warming and cute story that, along with all the pretty pictures, will surely prove to be a delight for the children. And John C. Reilly’s performance as Ralph brings a humanity to it all that has us sympathizing with the anti-hero as he struggles against fate.
Meanwhile, there’s enough depth to the story to appeal to adults as well. Providing some social commentary and exploration of existentialism, Wreck-It Ralph has subplots which explore the age old adage of the grass being greener on the other side and explores the theory that we all have our place in this world. It’s this level of depth that ensures Wreck-It Ralph is more than just childish non-sense that will bore parents, but at least keeps the kids quiet for about an hour and a half.
While Wreck-It Ralph does lull in some spots and some will having disparaging remarks about it being a Toy Story rip-off (not to mention Sarah Silverman’s voice can drive you bat shit crazy), the movie is chock full of wit, charm and creativity that will easily get you over those small humps. Wreck-It Ralph is a fantastical and inventive journey that has something for everyone. While the pretty game worlds and nostalgic references will be what draw you in, it’s the heart of the movie that will really capture you and have you wrapped up in this wonderful world that Moore has created. For my money, I believe Wreck-It Ralph actually should have picked up the Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
While my rating is strictly based on the movie, I would like to add something else. The Blu-ray and DVD of Wreck-It Ralph also comes with bonus features which include the animated short Paperman. Paperman won the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film at the 2013 Academy Awards. This addition just adds icing to the cake with this purchase, as Paperman is a delightful little watch in itself.