Title: Wreck-it Ralph
Genre(s): Animation, Comedy, Family
Director(s): Rich Moore
Release Year: 2012
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
If I’m not watching films, writing, at work, or at school, I’m probably playing video games. Growing up, it was the escape from reality that I would crave, which I now only moderately indulge in. The stories can be on par with many films we see nowadays, examples including Bioshock, Metal Gear Solid, and Heavy Rain. The odd thing is, never has this medium been able to be successfully adapted to a movie with its original source completely intact. There are movies like Scott Pilgrim vs The World and The FP which have borrowed elements from gaming culture, but never truly adapted an entire game properly. But even the former is an adaptation of a graphic novel, so the gaming material has been pre-chewed for easy development. With Wreck-it Ralph though, it’s the closest movies have gotten to creating a delightful game adaptation, while still not actually taking a real property and wholly adapting it. It borrows elements from many other pre-existing games which will please many gamers, but it creates a handful of original properties to incorporate within its universe that feel like games I’ve played many times before. Beyond the many references to other games and elements of gaming culture, there’s a deeper appreciation that can be had if you can get past the typical beats of any other animated film, and some forced moments that could have easily felt more natural.
Wreck-it Ralph tackles the issue of bad guys in video games through its protagonist Ralph, voiced by John C. Reilly. He has one role in the game Fix-it Felix Jr, and that’s to wreck a building and try and stop Fix-it Felix (voiced by Jack McBrayer) from being able to fix the wreckage. It’s essentially an iteration of the Donkey Kong arcade game from the ’80s, which is clever because Donkey Kong was the bad guy in that game and later became the flagship star and good guy of the Donkey Kong series. That is exactly what Ralph wants to do: break convention and be the good guy for once. To do this, he jumps through a few games, and many mishaps occur in his plot to become the good guy. It’s a very typical film once you get past the video game references and unique story, but because it utilizes unique elements from games like glitches, hidden levels, and different genre elements, it manages to be engrossing, albeit very predictive.
The other problem with the film is that it aims to please many demographics, sometimes embellishing in one viewership too long for other audiences to enjoy. Its attempts to attract the younger audience verges on the annoying with its constant use of childish humor that mainly results in name-calling, and can be represented entirely by the character of Vanellope von Schweetz (whose shrilly voice is courtesy of Sarah Silverman). Her character is not a bad character by any means, but there’s just a lot to not like about her that comes mainly from the dialogue, as opposed to how her character is supposed to be. One joke regarding fecal matter is fine, but if you make your character dependent on those jokes alone, what exactly are you teaching children? It’s just something that’s never clicked with me, nor will it ever. Kids don’t need to have movies tell them ways to make fun of others, so why keep teaching them things? It’s fine though, that’s not a knock against the film, but dwelling on one demographic when you’re trying to please so many others is a risky venture, one that I don’t think is successfully done here. The film gives off that Pixar vibe, but really ruins it with its humor that can only be appreciated by children.
But then there are the video game references, which range from characters, gaming tropes, icons, and lots of nostalgia. There’s not so much of a focus on newer games within this film, which was fine, I had no expectations to see Assassin’s Creed or Mass Effect references throughout, but the small nods they do give to games like Metal Gear Solid and Street Fighter are appreciated. For those who grew up gaming in the ’80s and ’90s, you will find many references to appreciate from Pac-man to Q*bert to Sonic the Hedgehog. Beyond that, there’s also a very inventive use of glitches within the film, one that ends very flat though because of its poor implementation. Essentially, Vanellope is a glitch within her cart racing game, and no one wants her to race because if she does the game will stop working and eventually be shut down. What is infuriating is that while the use of her as glitch makes complete sense and is fine, there’s a pivotal moment near the end of the film where she uses her glitch ‘powers’ to evade a disastrous situation. Unfortunately for the movie, there’s no indication that she is able to harness that power and use it to her advantage. So instead she just randomly saves herself, providing the moment in every film where a character is in danger and is saved at the last second by something or someone.
Typical movie moments aside, the film is fresh and inventive, it looks beautiful, and I even enjoyed the 3D, which is something very rare. The music was catchy and upbeat, though the blatant placement of Skrillex as a character within the film was slightly annoying, but he is only in it for a split second near the beginning. Everything about this movie feels very Pixar, except for its poor dialogue and a generic relationship wedged in between Calhoun and Fix-it Felix, which is something to take note of regardless of the fact that it is a Disney film anyways. With the mediocre reception of Brave in the summer, and the poor track record that Pixar has been having lately, it’s interesting to see other animated films outdo the studio that once seemed unable to dethrone as animation kings. Wreck-it Ralph stands alone as one of the best video game films ever made, which is a triumph all on its own. To be, perhaps, the best animated film of the year is also something to be praise-worthy. If it doesn’t win some awards for its animation, I’ll be very surprised. Regardless, go see this when you have the chance, it is a perfect film for the family, though maybe a little more for kids and gamers than anyone else.