Sunday, December 30, 2012

Review: Wreck-It Ralph

Happy New Year and all that. I hope everyone is having a better end of year experience than I am (I wrecked my car! Awesome!). This will be the last blog of 2012, which doesn’t mean too much I suppose since 2013 is literally just  hours away at this point, but still.

You might have noticed that I never reviewed Brave despite it being on that Summer Movie Preview I did months ago. I did manage to see it but never got around to writing about it. I may still review it but for now I’ll let you know that I thought it was pretty good but not exactly up to the standard I hold for Pixar. Since whatever movie Pixar made that year tends to be the top animated film of the year the times when they don’t deliver usual quality things get murky. For example since 2005 Pixar has won the Academy Award for Best Animated Film every year except in the years when they released the Cars movies, which are considered to be by far the worst they ever produced.

Enter Wreck-It Ralph. Ever since it came out it’s gained a ton of critical acclaim. But let’s be honest: it’s Disney. The best animated films Disney usually produces are actually done by Pixar so my hopes weren’t very high for it. I ended up putting off catching it until last week. Despite my reservations I like video games and I like cartoons; why no give it a chance?

Full review after the jump.

I wonder if Donkey Kong and Mario have a similar relationship
Wreck-It Ralph is a video game bad guy who, for the past thirty years, has done the thankless job of playing the villain in the game Fix-It Felix, Jr. While he doesn’t mind his villainous duties he has become increasingly disgruntled by the poor treatment by his fellow characters both in his game and without. Finally, after a huge argument between himself and his gamemates, Ralph resolves to venture out into other games in order to secure a medal to prove he could be a hero. Unfortunately he unknowingly sets off a series of events that not only threaten his own game but the entire arcade as well.

Visually Wreck-It Ralph looks really damn good. Aside from a few little details the animation is gorgeous. The locations are detailed and the tone from world to world is very different from the last. If you take away anything from this film it should be how well the computer animators did when crafting the universe we see. Also you may have heard that this movie is a sort of modern day Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and that’s pretty accurate. That film is famous because for the first time in history (and since?) where all the major animated film properties were featured in one movie. The same happens here as lots of classic video game characters cameos in this film in similar fashion. There have been mixed thoughts about if this works or not but since I’m old enough to be familiar with classic arcades and young enough to have played plenty of modern video games I’d say that I’m in the perfect age group to enjoy the references.

Christ, what a f**king monster. Totally evil to the core
Plot wise the movie is fairly simple and straight forward but the likability of the various main characters makes it very easy to sit back and enjoy. I do really enjoy the theme of whether someone should be judged by the aspects that they can’t control or by their actions. Ralph is clearly a good guy but he is treated like a second class citizen by his society for being a “villain” in his game (and in his own game he’s more of a third class citizen). But the best thing about this flick’s story is that when you boil it down it’s a story about friendship, both its importance as a concept and the specific one that develops throughout the movie's narrative. If you’re a longtime reader you should well know that I’m an absolute sucker for that kind of thing (See: Gurren Lagann, Ga-Rei Zero). It ended up being a surprisingly heartwarming affair. I was fully invested into the plot and, when things wrapped up, I had to wipe a tear from my eye. That is something that usually only happens when I watch Pixar or Hayao Miyazaki films. I walked out of that theater 1000% entertained and completely willing to watch more should more be made. I had a bit of an issue with the characters and their actors that I’ll get into in a bit but I want to go ahead and say that the cast does a good job with the material.

All of the main cast is good, with I guess Sarah Silverman as Vanellope von Schweetz being the most obvious stand-out, but Alan Tudyk as King Candy steals the show in this one. I didn’t even recognize his voice and I dare say he’s the actor that does the most actual acting in this film.

Pictured: A leaf in the wind. Probably.
I suppose though that with Fix-It Felix, Jr., played by Jack McBrayer, and Sergeant Calhoun played by Jane Lynch, are a bit problematic since the characters are suspiciously similar in voice and mannerisms to Kenneth from 30 Rock and Sue from Glee…the TV shows that McBrayer and Lynch are most famous for, respectively. It feels like the creators of the film may have tailored both characters just so they could bring in these names, especially Lynch who has been having a hell of a career resurgence for the last four or five years. It doesn’t feel like they are out of their comfort zone enough. It’s like hiring Antonio Banderas to play a version of Puss in Boots that acts exactly like Zorro; where’s the challenge? So that was a bit annoying but hardly a deal breaker. But as I said I do like Ralph and Vanellope a lot and they made this movie for me.

I also would have liked to see more of the video game world. We spend a lot of time in Sugar Rush, which is gorgeous, and a bit in some other games but it feels like there’s so much untapped potential here and I was literally aching to see more of it. This is probably a testament to how much I liked the look of everything.

Sleeps in a cave; not particularly friendly
I don’t want to go too deep into this film because I don’t want to risk spoilers but I LOVE this movie. It’s fun, it looks pretty, it’s humorous, it’s a pretty original story (though not wholly original), it has memorable characters, and is very touching. I left the theater wanting to see more which makes this an extremely good example of how to make a quality family film. Wreck-It Ralph blows Brave out of the water in terms of entertainment and could very well snatch the Oscar for Best Animated Film from their hands. I wanted to give this movie 4 out of 5 Adorable Pandas, I really did, but every time I tried I felt like I was underselling this film. The flick is one of my favorite animated films of all time and if you haven’t checked it out yet you really need to get on it. Disney outdid Pixar this year, plain and simple. 

It's called "Bad Anon" yet everyone in the world knows they're villains
I give Wreck-It Ralph 5 Adorable Pandas out of 5


-Great visuals 

-Fun story 

-Fun characters 


-Some issues with key characters and their actors 

-It would have been nice to see even more game worlds


  1. Finally got around to seeing this the other week. Absolutely goddamn fantastic. This was what Who Framed Roger Rabbit? wanted to be, but failed at because the IP parent companies were too afraid of being shown up by the other.

    The one problem I had with the film (aside from Sugar Rush getting the lion's share of the time, as you pointed out) was that Glenn never got his comeuppance for being such a goddamn douchebag to Ralph. Felix and the other Nicelanders at least tried to be civil with Ralph, but Glenn was a straight-up dick and never paid the price for it. A minor nitpick, I know. Other than that, this was probably one of the best movies I've seen this year.

  2. Nice review Beta. I totally wanted to see this film after seeing the trailer, but your post makes me want to see it even more! I like the story line, and the visuals do look great.

    The idea of traveling through different game worlds kind of reminds me of the novel "Ready Player One" - which is a totally great read for people who grew up in the 80s and 90s.

    1. I'm not very familiar with that book but I just heard they're supposedly making a movie from it.