Director: Rich Moore
MPAA Rating: PG
FilmPulse Score: 7/10
Almost immediately after the first clips and teasers for Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph began making their way across the internet, people wondered aloud if this was going to be the Toy Story of video games. After seeing it, I’d say the comparison is a bit off. This isn’t a video-game centric Toy Story at all. It’s a video-game centric Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
John C. Reilly voices Ralph, who ‘stars’ as the bad guy in an old, yet somehow surviving, 1980s era video game. His problem? He’s tired of being the bad guy. He does his job every time a quarter is put in the slot, but he isn’t allowed to hang out with the other characters in his game once the arcade closes for the night.
In an attempt to gain acceptance, he leaves his video game and travels to the first-person shooter world of Hero’s Duty in an attempt to win a medal and be seen as a hero.
The draw of the film, at least from a marketing perspective, was the opportunity to see video game characters from different franchises interact with each other. These moments are all done well, ranging from mildly amusing to downright hilarious. The problem is, that except for momentary background cameos, those moments end about 20 minutes into the film once Ralph reaches the world of the multiplayer racing game Sugar Rush.
Inherently, this is not necessarily a problem. The story needs to focus on Ralph and his quest to find himself. The marketing, however, made it seem like the video game references would be a central part of the film, and soon after the bright colors of Sugar Rush begin filling the screen, it’s obvious that this is simply not the case.
Do not take this statement as one of disapproval. Despite the hard right turn in focus, Wreck-it Ralph is a funny, sweet, gorgeously drawn and very well voice-acted animated film. The most surprising thing, though, is how genuinely moving it is, especially in regards to Vanellope Von Schweetz (a surprisingly charming Sarah Silverman), a ‘glitch’ in Sugar Rush that is shunned by all the racers and repressed by the game world’s ruler, King Candy (Alan Tudyk, who channels Ed Wynn to near perfection).
Across the board, the voice actors are up to the task of bringing this film to life. Jack McBrayer is good as Fix-it Felix, the ‘hero’ of the game Ralph abandons, and Jane Lynch is perfect as a Hero’s Duty commander.
The movie is funny when it needs to be (including some almost painful – but hilarious – puns), poignant at others, and always inventive.
Whether you like it or not, though, may depend what you expected from it. If you go in looking for a video-game themed hero’s journey, you’ll like it just fine.
If you go see it hoping to see a 101-minute string of video game references, you may be sorely disappointed.
As a bonus, get there early to see John Kahr’s charming animated short film “Paperman” and stick around after the film, as the credits add some well-deserved laughs.