Any kid who grew up playing video games in the late 80s and early 90s should feel giddy about Wreck It Ralph. As a child of the 80s, a lot of time and quarters were spent playing classics like Street Fighter, Ms Pac Man (yes I know this was well before Street Fighter revived Arcades), Rampage and other staples of the period. If you are a gamer from times gone by and the trailers and marketing campaign for Disney’s Wreck It Ralph didn’t make you laugh or touch something in you, then you have no soul.
The opening short, Paper Man was absolutely brilliant. Paper Man is about a chance encounter and love at first sight. It was sweet, romantic, and charming. Clearly meant for the adults. Not really sure why it was attached to this movie.
Wreck It Ralph’s conceit is brilliant in its simplicity. The idea that there exists a world where the games we play are actually real. That once the day is over the characters that we know and love actually have their own lives and dreams and they can travel between each other’s games.
Life is fantastic when you are a hero like Felix Fix It (Jack McBrayer). Everyone loves you, you get to live in an actual apartment, have friends, etc. Its a different story for the bad guy Ralph (John C. Reilly). No one likes him because its his job to wreck everything and bad guys don’t get medals or accolades. Its a lonely existence. On the 30th Anniversary of the game Ralph doesn’t like where his life is at and seeks to change his destiny by somehow winning a medal.
Usually big animated films feature actors who have very distracting voices – Madagascar with Chris Rock, or Monsters, Inc with Billy Crystal. Director Rich Moore does a great job on the set up and getting the most out of his voice actors. None of these actors have really well known, unique voices, so they all matched their characters.
Screenwriters, Phil Johnston, Jennifer Lee and John C. Reilly clearly love the gaming culture, there are some really nice in-jokes and references to the classic games. All the mentioning of going Turbo had a double meaning for fans of classic gaming – until they explained it within the context of the movie. Most of the movie’s greatest moments are ruined by the trailers.
The first act set up is filled with nice moments. Lots of really good sight gags and winks and nods to classic game history. The problem is, the film runs into 2nd act problems. Namely the introduction of new characters who serve to drive everything down and the movie seems to forgo its original charm for lame potty jokes.
The Halo esq game that Ralph leaps into doesn’t make much sense and it was hard to really connect with Jane Lynch’s tough Commander Calhoun character. But the real problem with the movie is it morphs into a completely different movie once Ralph reaches the Sugar Rush, a candy coated, Mario Kart style racing game. All forward momentum basically halts as we get sucked into the story of a Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) a system glitch who desperately wants to race.
This section of the movie is meant to show Ralph finally connecting with someone and slowly becoming the hero he thinks he should be. It would be fine if they didn’t spend so much time there and Vanellope wasn’t such an annoying character. The movie goes from being ‘sly’ and ‘intelligent’ to silly, cheap kiddie humor. They spend a good 2 or 3 minutes joking about Heroes Duty because it sounds like “Doody” and at the end they say things like “Smell you later.” Really? It just felt like a radical shift in tone and frankly became a bit monotonous.
Licensing for all of the characters featured in the trailer must have been pretty difficult to obtain. So it was disappointing that they aren’t really utilized beyond what you see in the movie’s marketing. Wreck It Ralph is a brilliant high-concept in search of a movie. Starts great but fades fast.
Final Grade C