Wreck It Ralph ***1/2
One Liner Review:
A very clever movie that combines video games with animated action and finds just the right tone to do it with.
This is a really great movie, filled with energy, life, and creativity. It’s one thing to bring in a bunch of old video game characters from over the years, but it’s a much better one to tell a story that lets the characters live inside a game and react to what’s going on outside of the arcade machine. The characters e react to quarters being put in the machine, as they are stuck inside of it ready to participate in each game. They know when players are sitting at the console, and when the wire has been pulled out of the machine or the out of order sticker has been put on. And that’s just in the first half. As the movie goes on, we get a very cool mission and fish out of water story where video game villain Ralph goes on a quest to win a metal and prove he’s not such a bad guy. The games this movie takes him to are amazing and so is the twisty storyline filled with surprises.
Wreck-it Ralph is a pretty fantastic film. It perfectly combines humor and creativity with a great story line. We are at a place in time, right now, where video game animation and game play is off the charts. It’s getting to the point where the animation in these games is more exciting than any animated film. Wreck-It Ralph is the unique movie that combines the two mediums. When we are watching Ralph enter one of those first person shooter games, for example, we are getting the best of both worlds. We are getting the exciting thrill of playing one of those games, with alien creatures popping out everywhere and rapid machine gun fire striking them down, but we are also getting it as part of a film, with real characters and feeling.
The premise of the movie is very straightforward. Ralph is the villain in a video game. He’s fine with that, and likes his job, which is to destroy buildings so that the main character of the game, Felix, can run around fixing them. But then the movie takes us into the real behind the scenes world, just like toy story did over a decade ago. On the surface, Ralph is doing his job for the kids playing, just like the toys in toy story were doing theirs. But after the player goes away. And the game is left alone for a while; a whole world exists behind the screen.
The world has Ralph sleep in a dump, overlooking the building where Felix and the people of the town sleep. These people love Felix and celebrate him as their hero every chance they can get. They don’t look at Ralph as just another member of their team, but actually view him as the enemy. That’s why he is not allowed to live in the building with them. When he shows up at one of Felix’s parties, everybody there freaks out, and Ralph ends up confirming their fears about him by accidentally destroying everything in sight.
That’s when Ralph decides he has had enough. One of the building people tells Ralph that Felix gets metals for doing an outstanding job, and that Ralph will never be someone who can get a metal. That puts the challenge into very clear terms for Ralph, of how he can change and prove that he is worthy. He now decides to go out into the world and try to win a metal and prove himself. If he can do that, and bring it back to show the people, then they will agree to let him live there, in the building, with them.
Ralph heads out on his hero’s quest, to win a metal, and he leaves his game on a train that brings him to game central station (a play on grand central station in NY, and a building that looks just like the real terminal.) I love the way the details are worked out here so that characters travel in a train that runs through the wire of an arcade machine, and we see the lights traveling through the wire, representing the moving train. I love how we see that when a game is removed, the track and tunnel, which leaves game central station, and goes to that game, is suddenly pulled out of the terminal, and everyone goes running into the station, in a panic.
There is so much that has been worked out to make this world believable, including the count down that comes into the air when a coin has been placed in the game, telling the characters to go running for their starting positions. I also love how we get to see what happens in Ralph’s game, called ‘fix it Felix,’ when Ralph is not there. A kid sits at the arcade ready to play; only the building isn’t getting wrecked at all. Felix hops around ready to fix things, but there isn’t anything there for him to fix. That’s what makes Felix leave the game too, in search of Ralph, hoping to bring the character back before it is too late. If he doesn’t make it in time, the game will be marked as “out of order,” and removed from the arcade.
Ralph’s journey takes him into other games, looking for a metal. First he goes into a game called tapper, where he sits down at a bar with the bartender, looking for advice. The cool thing here is that we move back on the arcade game, looking at it from the point of view of people at the arcade passing by, and see that it really is a game about a bartender trying to catch glasses that are flying down the bar. After this game, Ralph goes into that first person shooter game called hero’s metal, or something, and the scene is incredible. There is so much to like about the scenes in this game, and one of my favorite things about it is the way a monitor follows the Jane Lynch character, Calhoun, around so that she can talk to the person playing the game. This is just like those real games where the camera moves back and forth and sometimes one of the characters in the game turns around and talks to the person playing it.
Pretty soon Ralph heads into a candy crush game where he pretty much spends the rest of the movie. I would have preferred to see him enter a few other games, but I guess at a certain point the movie had to go more for story than for cool ideas and fun without consequences. The story of Ralph’s mission really gets started in this new game, when he meets Vaneloppe, voiced by Sarah Silverman. She’s a cute, but annoying girl who wants to win a candy car race more than anything in the world. She and Ralph design a car together using all kinds of candy ingredients, and then she prepares for her race.
There are some great twists that come into play as the movie goes on. The second half is just as lively as the first half of the movie is, and for completely different reasons. We get a villain, named king candy, who wants to keep Vaneloppe down, and at one point, makes a pretty good case to Ralph about the reason why. He even explains to Ralph how if Vaneloppe does win the game, and gets to be an avatar that players can choose, it will lead to not only the game’s end, but also to Vaneloppe being the only character stuck in the game after it is pulled out of the arcade.
I love the surprises that come in during the second half of the movie, and the final race is, of course, incredibly exciting. Wreck-It Ralph is really a great film all the way around. It has a wonderful premise, some amazing ideas, and lots of terrific and exciting animation. The actors doing voice work here are all pretty good too. John C. Reilly is terrific as always. He’s the perfect guy for this lead, playing a big, kind and gentle, oaf like character (not unlike Shrek.) Sarah Silverman is also great in her role. Jane Lynch and Jack MacBride are fine, and fit the movie nicely. Like brave, I like that the movie didn’t go for any stars bigger than these guys and was happy to have a likeable cast of accomplished actors who fit the parts well. Wreck-It Ralph is a very smart and fantastic film.