Release Date: November 2, 2012 (3D/2D theaters)
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Director: Rich Moore
Screenwriter: Jennifer Lee, Phil Johnston
Starring: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Ed O’Neill, Mindy Kaling, Adam Carolla, Horatio Sanz, Dennis Haysbert, Edie McClurg, Roger Craig Smith, Gerald C Rivers, Rachael Harris, Stefanie Scott, Reuben Langdon, Kyle Hebert
Genre: Animation, Comedy
MPAA Rating: PG (for some rude humor and mild action/violence)
Official Website: Disney.com/WreckItRalph
Disney owns so many companies that it’s becoming difficult to pin point the name brands they DON’T own. The one staple that Disney’s yet to fully claim is the highly successful Pixar Animation studio, and handing over the bulk of the animation duties to the said company has given Disney more time to focus on other things, which may or may not be a good thing.
Now Walt Disney Animation has resurfaced, re-imagining the classic late 80′s/90′s motif into a digital, computer animated wonder. First there was Bolt, not as successful as their second film, The Princess and the Frog, which was closely followed by their rendition of the Rapunzel story, Tangled. While most animated films, regardless of how good or bad they are, will do well in at the box office, Disney’s attempts at reviving their animation trademark has left most fans in a state of wanting, unsure if they’ll ever bring back the type of quality they did with the Little Mermaid and so on. Disney Execs had to make a decision. They had to do something that would bring life back into their animation efforts and no longer resemble more of a Dreamworks story telling lackluster.
Thus was born Wreck-it Ralph, (John C. Reilly) a story with more substance and likability than Disney’s previous three animated films. Wreck-it Ralph is a villain in a video game in which he never receives the appreciation that the hero does, Fix-It Felix. (Jack McBrayer) Wanting to be a hero so badly, Ralph leaves his own game and visits other ones for a chance to receive what every hero craves…a medal. But in crossing over into other games, he runs into people that delay his progress, making friends with an adorable little glitch name Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) in a race car game called Sugar Rush, as well as pissing off a duty-bound alien fighting soldier called Calhoun. (Jane Lynch) Of course, there are other forces at bay which have placed Vanellope in danger, and Ralph has to make a decision – save his new found friend from being decoded and remain the villain, or go back to his own game where he’ll finally become a hero.
From childhood to now, I’ve been a joystick fanatic! Having grown up with the 8-bit era of video gaming; Mario, Mega Man, Pac-Man, etc etc, Wreck-It Ralph brings all of the video games I grew up with to the big screen for the Wii and Xbox 360 generations to enjoy. This is a fan film at its core, no doubt, with more gaming references and shout-outs than I can count on two hands and two feet. In a video game villain support group, we get glimpses of General Bison, Bowser, Clyde, Dr. Eggman and many other villains that the veteran gamers will instantly recognize.
Likewise, some of the heroes from popular games make cameos too – Sonic leads a model lifestyle, sending out service messages to the rest of the arcade, Frogger’s found hopping around from time to time, Space Invader Aliens do their best to take a break from the monotony of blasters, Pac-Man is found enjoying a party over in Fit-It Felix’s homestead, and good ol’ Mr. Ben Tapper gives advice to the protagonist in fine bar tending style.
The film pays very close attention to what makes the different video game eras so unique, playing up the pixelated 8 to 16 bit games quite humorously, as well as serving up a nice dish of the more recent first person shooter games in excellent quality.
In a Tron and Toy Story fashion, Wreck-It Ralph presents a story where the video game characters go about their normal lives when the kids have left the arcade to go home. But this isn’t simply a movie where fans can laugh at the subtle hints and jokes that reference old video games, there’s much more substance than that. The story comments on the ways the technological and gaming aspects of life have redefined the ways in which humans interact with one another. Ralph himself feels very isolated, which can be a very significant byproduct of video gaming. There’s also the idea that winners and losers are mutually exclusive, and the two can never have anything to do with one another.
Take Ralph’s game for example – Ralph is a big guy who’s defined by his wrecking skills, and Felix by his ability to fix things. The working class style video game depicts two very different people who allow their self worth to be determined by how successful they are in their given situations. In Ralph’s case, he always looses and is looked down upon despite the fact that he had no choice in his natural order within the game. There’s a certain amount of truth to this in real life – people’s situations and cultural surroundings are often factors in how the “upper class” judges them. “You’re a villain, and villains don’t get medals,” as if to assume that Ralph’s purpose in life is of no use to the rest of the world.
The film focuses around three different gaming styles, all playing up their particular eras and cultural subtexts. The first is Ralph’s own game, which as mentioned above, is more of a working class style game, very pixelated, but old and unsure of it’s place in the world. It’s rather funny how the game’s supporting cast moves in the way we would expect from a game resembling Donkey Kong. The second actually jumps forward in time to the present where first person shooter games are kings of the gaming world. Jane Lynch plays up her signature role as a complete and utter bad ass and leads the charge against an alien bug infestation, and assists Ralph and Felix in keeping the bugs from infecting the rest of the arcade. This hard-bodied game called Hero’s Duty, a combination of Halo and Call to Duty, brings out the most focused set of characters who could care less about medals and more about achieving the end goal, which is to keep the gamer on task and without dying. And the third travels back in time to the age where race car games, anime, and cutsey style characters for girls reigned supreme. Sarah Silverman gives the voice performance of her life and milks her character Vanellope for all she’s worth. All three gaming aspects have their own visual style and very specific cultural influences that signify why they became the games they are.
Nothing about this film was poorly done – so much attention to detail, different gaming styles, substantial plot lines …it makes me wonder if this film was, in fact, a Disney film. Sure, the famous castle logo that Disney’s been so proud of for so long starts this film off in glamorous style, but this is so different from anything Disney’s done in the past. And with John Lasseter helming as Executive producer, (Toy Story…and much more) and Rich Moore in the director’s chair (Simpsons, Futurama, you get the picture) I have a funny feeling that this is a Disney animated movie that should have been a Pixar film.
I’m not knocking Disney’s attempt at bringing new material to the screen, but the substance carried along in this film is so much greater and likeable than anything Disney’s done in the last ten years. Me thinks that Lasseter and Pixar have made a much bigger impact on the animation world in both the visual and the writing aspect than Disney cared to acknowledge. Now we’re seeing the fruits of Pixar’s labor. No more princesses, kings, swash buckling, ect etc to drive a good story. Simply put a good writer and director behind everything, and an animated film can be just as morally influential and substantial as anything else on the big screen.
9 out of 10 stars