This movie gets: ♥♥♥♥ out of 5
Since Disney gave us “Tangled” in late 2010, my hope in the company and what kind of movies it was capable of making has been restored. Then again, John Lasseter of PIXAR served as a producer for “Wreck-it Ralph,” just as he did on “Tangled,” so perhaps it was the Disney acquisition of PIXAR that has allowed the languishing animation company to reboot.
I can’t even quantify the number of hours I invested in the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade game (adapted for NES), so safe to say that “Wreck-it Ralph” struck a chord with me. Then again, everything about this movie’s premise is lovable: the clumsy cretin with a heart of gold, the cheesy-but-still-clever “Game Central Station” which seems to lurk somewhere in the surge protector, the badass “Hero’s Duty” squadron leader (Jane Lynch, of course) who is as hot as she is, well, a badass, and Fix-it Felix Jr., a clever amalgamation of Mario and Luigi, voiced by the dorky Jack McBrayer of 30 Rock fame.
I expected to hate the bubbly, cute girl character, Venellope von Schweetz. In the previews, she struck me as a insert-gag-character-here device (like the three redheads I complained about in “Brave“) to bring in the kid-girl audience. But she’s anything but: Sarah Silverman is a talented voice actor, and from what I’ve read, the actors reading together in the same room brought about some humorous improvisation. Regardless, I loved her–spunk, attitude, cuteness and all.
This movie is as much about the big moments as about the small; about the way our world is changing (kids prefer the high-definition, graphics-intensive Hero’s Duty to the 8-bit arcade box, Fix-it Felix Jr.), and about the relationships the videogame characters build as a necessary part of their videogame lives. Fix-it Felix knows his game is nothing without Ralph, and this is a constant tension that I loved watching play out. The humor that becomes raw emotion between Venellope and Ralph is bursting at the seams with sheer adorableness. And the tie-ins–the bad-guy support group, the jerky, 8-bit motion of the old arcade characters–make “Wreck-it Ralph” a pleasure both as an original film and as a Kingdom Hearts-style nostalgia-bomb.
Now, beyond the games we know (Sonic, Q-bert) and games that acted like games we know (Fix-it Felix Jr., Sugar Rush), there were some pitfalls in this film that could have been sidestepped. The story made the same couple mistakes: “We need this to happen, so we will create some arbitrary rule to make that later plot point possible.” For example: Glitches cannot leave their game. (Why?) If you die in a game that’s not your own, you die for good. (Why?) Cybugs become whatever it is that they devour. (Why?) You can probably see what the eventual Point B of all these plot devices are, and why it felt a little bit like fitting a square peg into a round hole.
The big finish was a bit cheesy, but what’s a Disney movie without a recycled villain? Nevertheless, the 3/4 of the movie leading up to the final act makes “Wreck-it Ralph” absolutely worth the money, and I imagine arcades will see a boost in business for the next few months.