Wreck-It Ralph is a film that I was interested in from the first time I heard about it.
A movie about old arcade game characters just hit all the right buttons for me. I was further sold when at Fan Expo Canada this year, I discovered a full sized Fix-It Felix Jr. arcade machine. For a piece of what essentially boiled down to promotional material, it was really well done. Other than a lack of cigarette burns and a screen covered in a thin layer of grime, it felt like a real 80’s arcade machine. The decals were “faded” and coming off in places. The cabinet itself looked a little beat up. It felt like it came out of an arcade. Oddly enough, this kind of signaled to me that Wreck-It Ralph really should be on my viewing list. If Disney was willing to put this much time and effort into a free promo arcade game, this film was one they had faith in.
I’m glad I saw it in theaters.
If you’re visiting this website, chances are you’ve probably heard Andrew and Mr. Green’s review and for the most part, I agree with them. Wreck-It Ralph is about Ralph, the villain of Fix-It Felix Jr. and a character that gets no respect. In an effort to get some respect, Ralph travels across games to win a Hero’s Medal. In the meantime, the game itself starts to be seen as out of order at the arcade and the game’s inhabitants, along with other games, are starting to run scared. The film is a very well put together story about misfits trying to gain some respect. It’s a story we’ve seen tons of times before but it’s the care in the way it’s put together is what makes this film special. The voice over performances are really something. This is the first movie in a long time where it almost brought me to tears due in part to to the incredible character performance from Sarah Silverman.
Wreck-It Ralph has been in and out of some sort of development since the late 80’s and eventually ended up in Disney’s computer animation department, which shouldn’t be confused with Pixar, but it’s very obvious the influence that Pixar has had on them. While the story and the moral lessons are kind of in your standard spots, much like Pixar films, it doesn’t overly dwell on them. Ralph has made a mistake, the Nicelanders have made a mistake, they move on from it. It doesn’t hit you over the head with them over and over again. Wreck-It Ralph gets to the point and continues on with the plot.
The details of the game are well done as well. The Nicelanders of the Wreck-It Ralph game only move in the way you’d expect the game sprites to move. There’s an explanation of how a first person shooter works in this world that makes perfect sense. Q-bert only speaks Q-bertese. It’s these details that remind you of the amount of care that was taken with the film which on a whole makes the film that much better, including the cameos.
Everyone has made mention of the video game cameos in the film. Everything from Burger Time and Q-bert to Street Fighter 2 and Metal Gear Solid gets referenced. Hell, they even threw in the Konami Code in one scene. These are all very well done. You never question a cameo or reference in Wreck-It Ralph. You never think when they make a joke about Zangief, it’s never in a “Ha ha ha, we made a Street Fighter 2 joke, aren’t we clever” kind of way. It’s always done for a point of humor rather than a gimmick. And the way that these jokes are put together, I don’t think you necessarily need to know the video games they’re riffing on. If you do, the jokes are funnier. But if not, you’d more or less get it none the less. And more importantly, I don’t feel that they date the film.
Let me give you an example.
Among my age group (early 30’s), one of the Disney films that always gets brought up as a favorite is Aladdin. At the time of it’s release, Aladdin was a mix of contemporary humor and action that really caught on with kids at the time, especially with young boys. The unfortunate thing is, the humor is now the film’s greatest weakness. A ton of the jokes in Aladdin just date the film (the Arsenio Hall impression for instance) and probably don’t make much sense to anyone born ten years after Aladdin was first released and I think Disney realizes that. A planned Imax re-release was scrapped in 2003 and the company seems to be in no real hurry to release the film on blu ray. But the difference with Wreck-It Ralph is that while the jokes are situated in video games, they are there not for the sake of the joke, like in Aladdin, but they are there in service of the story and while I imagine Wreck-It Ralph will feel a little dated in ten years, I think it will survive a lot better than a lesser film of the same type would have.
Overall, Wreck-It Ralph is a great film from Disney and while we tend to equate the highest standards of quality to Disney’s films from Pixar, their own CG division is quickly becoming no slouch with this and Tangled under their belts. I’d highly recommend it to everyone.
If you’re gonna geek out, GEEK HARD!