These days, when people go to see an animated Walt Disney movie, usually they rely on good ol’ Pixar to provide a good time, as they did earlier this summer with the above average (but far from perfect) Brave. But the studio is capable of producing great films even without that superstar performer, and you need not look any further than its latest effort for proof. Wreck-It Ralph! emulates the same kind of quality you’d find from Pixar, but it’s instead from Walt Disney’s traditional animation studios, and they haven’t lost a hint of quality. This is a film that both video game zealots and casual fans will enjoy. The place to be is Litwak’s Arcade, which has been popular 30 years running. And no machine that’s lasted in that time frame is Fix It Felix Jr., where the main star, Felix (Jack McBrayer) repairs damage left behind by the very angry Ralph (John C. Reilly). If the player does well enough, Felix succeeds and gets a medal, and Ralph gets hurled off the building.
What players don’t know is that these characters actually live in the game, and while Felix is highly cherished by the neighbors he saves, Ralph is underappreciated and sleeps in the nearby junkyard. One day, he opts to crash the crew’s 30th anniversary party, only to realize that he’s completely underappreciated. Fed up and deciding he doesn’t want to be the bad guy anymore, he makes his way through the Game Central Station (i.e. the power strip that the game is plugged into) to find a new adventure, and earn the respect he believes he deserves. This journey takes him on a couple of stops. The first is Hero’s Duty, a Gears of War-style arcade shooter where a gruff female captain (Jane Lynch) takes no nonsense. Following that excursion, Ralph ends up in Sugar Rush, a candy-coated cart racing game where King Candy (Alan Tudyk) rules over the race tracks, and a “glitch” named Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) seeks to find her place in the racing world – even if it means using Ralph’s newly earned medal to get there.
What follows is a story that manages to keep our interest, mainly focusing on the friendship between Vanellope and Ralph (they don’t hit it off at first, insulting each other back and forth), but it does keep up, and a wonderful twist near the end reveals the plot that lies underneath, one that even veteran players may not see coming. That’s just part of Wreck-It Ralph!’s genuine surprise, the ability to be an engaging tale without Pixar’s involvement. It shows that director Rich Moore (of Futurama fame) and his team are capable of carrying the load. But it’s also entertaining to see how they keep enough of a balance of jokes to entertain both casual families and those who respect and love video games. The nods to many classics are noticeable, whether it’s a stop in Tapper’s bar or a cool little Metal Gear-related item that pops up over the course of the picture. Other wink-in-the-eye jokes also pop up, including nods to popular franchises.
This featured movie review concludes on the next page, please click Page 2 below to see our final thoughts on Wreck-It Ralph!.