Review: Wreck-It Ralph (3-D) movie packed with gaming goodness

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Title: Wreck-It Ralph (a.k.a Wreck-It Ralph 3-D)
Release Date: November 2, 2012
Company: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Rating: “PG” for some rude humor and mild action/violence.
Pros: And all-around fun and enjoyable movie that gives plenty of obvious and subtle nods to the full range of videos games. (3D works very well even in the 2-D elements). Voice acting is very well done and fits all the characters. Animated short before it (Paperman) is beautiful and very sweet.
Cons: Some of the violent segments (first-person shooter “game” and the “boss battle” scene) might be a little much for kids. Some borderline potty humor may come home with the younger kids.
Overall Score: Two thumbs up; 93/100; A-; ****1/2 out of five.

If you have ever plunked a quarter into an arcade cabinet, if you have ever played a single video game, you will enjoy extra appreciation for Disney’s latest animated feature, Wreck-It Ralph.

On Paper(man)

Before I get to the main movie, just a quick few words about the Paperman animated short that was shown prior to the feature. This film blended traditional hand and computer animation to tell a very sweet, yet wordless, story. In it a young paper pusher uses the stack of forms on his desk to try to get a second chance at getting the attention of a pretty girl in the building across the alley. In ye olde Disney fashion, it eventually takes a magical turn to end with such sweetness that you cannot help but have a nice, warm felling. The whole style and mood is reminiscent the old boy-meets-girl movies (and maybe a hint of Dalmatians) made popular decades ago. Definitely come early and do not miss it.

“Bad is Not Bad

Wreck-It Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) is a classic 1980s video game arcade game villain who has become tired of always being the bad guy.

When the hero of his game’s namesake, Fix-It Felix, Jr., (Jack McBrayer), and the Nicelandians throw a party to celebrate the game’s 30th anniversary, Ralph decides to subtly crash the party. After spending so many years thinking of Ralph as being only bad, it’s hard for anyone to see him as anything else, so he decides to prove he can be more than a big bad building basher destined to be tossed into the mud at the end of every level.

Thanks to the central power station (a power strip), Ralph is able to hop between games – and even attend a Bad-Anon support group (“One game at a time”) – where he tries to win a medal to prove that he can be a hero.

Ralph initially enters a hyper-realistic first-person shooter arcade game and, eventually, lands in the sugary sweet Sugar Rush kart racer. Back in his Fix-It Felix cabinet, things have become worse, forcing Felix to follow the broken pixels to try and bring Ralph back to their game.

From there, matters become more grave and cabinet-hopping main characters converge to try and reset and return to their respective games before the arcade opens and their games are all permanently “Out of Order.”

“Bad Is Good”

Early in the movie they found ways to beautifully combine 2-D game characters in computerized 3-D worlds by giving every type of character well-timed and cleverly choreographed movements. The Nicelandian folks who live in the Fix-It Felix building, for example, are the little 2-D, 8-bit characters with jerky movements in the game that are conveyed in everything their 3-D versions do. Even Felix is able to quick jump when he wants and use his magic hammer to fix anything that’s been broken.

Early in the movie both Ralph and Felix pass through a first-person shooter arcade game and meet Calhoun (Jane Lynch), a gun totin’, big breasted, tough-as-nails squad leader who offers some of the movie’s more modern elements. Lynch’s experience with similar roles – think the cranky coach in Glee with a gun – is perfectly cast and a great counterpart to both McBrayer’s spot-on gosh-golly innocence in Felix and Reilly’s perfectly pitiful Ralph.

Most of the movie takes place in Sugar Rush where cute and sassy little Venellope (voice by Sarah Silverman and pronounced like “vanilla-pee”) bumps into Ralph and they eventually team up to try to win a race (and cooperatively regain some dignity). It turns out the Mad Hatter-ish King Candy (Alan Tudyk) wants to protect his game’s delicate balance which is threatened by the game jumpers. But that is not without its own peril as game characters, when outside their own game, do not regenerate as they would when they “die” in their own game.

Silverman’s sass certainly comes through here although you can hardly tell it’s her as the performance is much more saccharine and speedy than her usual purposefully paced punch-you-in-the-*bleep* standup persona. Venllope’s impish character, cheeky dialog and winky animations make her a perfect combination of adorable and annoying.

“It’s Good to be Bad”

The nods to classic and even a few modern games are nearly countless. Wreck-It may be packed with many, many game references and in-jokes (you know the secret unlock code) but do not let that disparage non-gamers from seeing this movie. It has so much character and sweetness – and I don’t just mean the candy land in Sugar Rush – that you may even shed a tear near the end of the movie. There’s a love story mixed in there, a bit of action and a story that takes a couple major twists that, although pretty well set up, are still quite fitting.

I did get a bit of a TRON feeling in a few parts, as well as some thoughts of The Matrix (it is a world within a computer program world) but those may not even be noticeable except to those who really look for it. There’s so much going on in Wreck-It and so much to look for that i may simply have been my tendency to draw parallels, even if they were not intentional. But that is also part of the fun of the movie. The central power area where game characters meet and pass between games, includes so many real-game characters that a gaming geek will burst a vessel trying to spot and name them all (the home video releases will certainly spend a lot of time on Pause). Take a look at the hall in the Tapper bar as well and you’ll notice a wall full of notable caricatures.

The story has a nice balance of action, romance and affection, spending just enough time in each to develop a bit of complexity and not wear any one too thin. There are even enough puns that kids and adults will enjoy a few extra smirky giggles.

It also has an undercurrent of breaking stereotypes that I rather like. Other than the obvious bad guy with a heart of gold, there’s also the tough female warrior and somewhat effeminate male hero as main characters.

If there are any nitpicky faults, they may be that the characters did not hop between enough games (although it can easily be argued that any more would have been gratuitous), the little kid “potty” jokes went a little long and the violent segments were too violent. At least one creature – which reminded me of another sci-fi movie but I do not want to give anything away – may frighten the youngest kids but, if they’ve played any game with a nasty, oversized boss, they’ll be OK.

“And That is Not Bad”

Wreck-It Ralph nicely balances the story, characters and video game nods in such as way that it will appeal to pretty much everyone in your family, even those who do not play or like video games. It’s a nice blend of old school Disney heart and storytelling talent with Pixar’s skill for pulling out and dissecting and alternate world behind our own and then lacing it with heart and humor.

Also Read [Wreck-It Ralph @ GamerTell] Site [Wreck-It Ralph]

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