Being a long-time gamer and Disney fan, it only made sense to go see Wreck-It Ralph, starring John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch.
Wreck-It Ralph takes place in an arcade where the video game characters come to life after closing time. While the setup sounds a bit like Toy Story, the imaginative execution makes the idea feel fresh. Each arcade machine features a world with its own inhabitants, all connected by a train system made of wires and electrical outlets. Each game-world feels like its own movie, ranging from a candy-coated world of racers to a dark, futuristic planet filled with giant bugs.
The animation gives each world a distinct feel and appearance. While the movie has some great action sequences, you’ll probably find shots of the scenery much more impressive.
Needless to say, there are a lot of jokes and references only gamers will understand. Plenty of old-school game characters, including Pac-Man and Sonic, make brief appearances. There’s talk of the games’ technology, such as code, glitches and resolution. There is also impressive detail to make the worlds seem like a video game. Some characters have stilted movements to appear poorly rendered and some parts of Ralph’s world are created to appear pixelated. You won’t forget that everything is a video game.
Although the movie takes place in a video game world, there is more to the movie than that. There is still a strong, emotional Disney story present that anyone, gamer or not, will enjoy. Ralph has spent the last 30 years seen as a villain. He decides he wants to change, to finally be appreciated by his fellow game characters. He goes on a journey that takes him to many games across the arcade as he tries to earn a medal, proving he is a good guy. Meanwhile, the characters from Ralph’s game realize his importance in his absence — it’s up to hero Fix-it Felix Jr. to find Ralph and save the game.
If it weren’t for the fantastic writing, the whole movie may have fallen apart. Multiple story arcs that spanmultiple worlds are strung together amazingly well. Humor is the foundation for much of the movie: For example, the Sugar Rush game is seemingly built on bad, yet funny, food puns. The dialogue is funny for the most part, but there are a few jokes that feel out of place or too crude for a Disney movie.
Beyond the humor, the movie touches upon many emotions. The arcade may be a fantasy world consisting only of heroes and villains, but the characters are written quite believably. The relationship between Ralph, voiced by Reilly, and Vanellope, voiced by Silverman, is an adorable, brother-and-sister-like dynamic that contains much of the movie’s heart.
The great characters would have been nothing without the strong voice cast. Reilly and Silverman are the standouts. They fit their characters perfectly, and their great back-and-forth banter is a highlight of the film. Some of the actors in the movie, especially Lynch and McBrayer, have very recognizable voices, which may be distracting at first. As the movie goes on you’ll notice it less, so it doesn’t detract from the movie too much.
It’s also worth noting that there is an animated short before the movie that also deserves your attention. Entitled “Paperman,” this black-and-white silent cartoon takes advantage of a new animation technology that creates everything in 3D, but looks like classic 2D animation. The short is so visually impressive, you can barely tell it isn’t hand-drawn. “Paperman” is a brilliant precursor to the feature film.
Wreck-It Ralph will easily be a Disney classic. Given a setting fit for the modern age, it still tells a heartfelt story that any child, or child at heart, will love.