I’ve talked a number of different times in a number of different posts about how expectations can affect a person’s opinion of a film. Expectations can make or break a film, making them a potentially dangerous thing to have. I went into the new animated film Wreck-It-Ralph with high expectations; in fact I don’t remember the last time I was so excited for an animated film. Though it wasn’t exactly what I expected it to be, Wreck-It-Ralph met all my expectations and then some.
Wreck-It-Ralph (John C. Reilly) is the villain not of just the film but of a fictional arcade video game called Fix-It-Felix Jr. Ralph’s job in life while the arcade is open is to destroy a building that Felix (John McBrayer) must then fix. Once the player beats the game, Ralph is hurled from the building into the mud. Ralph would be fine with that life if things were different once the arcade closed. Once closed, the characters from each game are free to do as they pleased in the video game world. Each arcade game has its own world and all the games are connected by Game Central Station but even after the game is done, Ralph is still treated like a villain. Forced to live in a dump alone, Ralph desperately wants the rest of the characters in his game to realize that being a bad guy doesn’t necessarily make him a bad guy. Determined to prove his worth, Ralph beings game jumping, something a character shouldn’t do, to try and earn himself a medal. The problem with game jumping is that if you die in a game that isn’t your own you don’t regenerate; you’re dead for good.
Ralph visits two different games while game jumping, the first being a space set, alien first person shooter called Hero’s Duty (and the film does not overlook the puns that can be made with duty). Under the command of Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch), Ralph is to help the First Person Shooter make it to the top of a tower without letting the cybugs (vicious alien robot bugs) destroy them. After failing miserably, Ralph decides to find his own way to the top to retrieve his own Hero’s medal. Ralph is successful in retrieving the medal but also inadvertently launches himself and a cybug into another game. Sergeant Calhoun follows Ralph, determined to kill the rogue cybug. If left unchecked, the cybug will multiply, eventually destroy the other video game worlds. Calhoun is accompanied by Felix, who is searching for Ralph. Without Ralph to be the villain, the arcade owner Mr. Litwak (Ed O’Neil) assumes the game is out of order and is prepares to unplug it.
The second video game world that Ralph inadvertently visits is the racing world of Sugar Rush. In an environment made entirely out of candy, Sugar Rush is a world similar to Mario Kart where racing reigns supreme. Run by King Candy (Alan Tudyk) each night racers race to become one of the eight avatars the children in the arcade can chose to race as the next day. Ralph meets a young racer named Vanellope Van Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) who dreams of racing but is not allowed to because she has been labeled a glitch. After she takes Ralph’s medal, the two work together to try and help her win her first race. As the two work together and grow closer as friends, Ralph becomes suspicious of King Candy and how Venelope actually became a glitch in the first place. The film continues to mix different game genres as Venellope, Ralph, Felix and Calhoun come together to save the land of Sugar Rush, defeat the cybugs, defeat a surprise enemy and save Venelope’s very existence.
Wreck-It-Ralph was one of the more unique and clever films I have seen in theaters in a while. I am a twenty-three year old video game nerd and the film appealed to me. I also believe that it could easily appeal to young children, old children and even adults who may not have much video game knowledge. With well thought out, lovable characters and rich, lush environments, Wreck-It-Ralph has all the elements of a great animated film. Beyond that however are some well placed, well integrated video game references that prove how clever the creators really are. The references were subtle, like the way the characters moved like video game characters or in a montage where we saw the arcade age 30 years, many of the video games that passed through were classic games. Even in the opening scene, when Wreck-It-Ralph is at a support group for bad guys, each other member of the support group was from a famous video game.
The main complaint I heard about this movie was that though the ideas in it were unique, the story itself wasn’t. The film starts with conflict, then the main character meets a friend and they grow close before something bad happens to make them fight (Ralph and Vanellope). The fight escalates to make the audience sad, then the main character finds his friend and apologizes so they can go on to defeat the villain. It is a common outline for animated movies but this film took the common outline and elevated it to the next level. I found every aspect of this film to be thoroughly unique from beginning to end and give it an 8 out of 10. It is a great animated film that will please gamers and non-gamers alike.