Sunday, April 14, 2013

Wreck-It Ralph

I've wanted to see this film for a long time, but for one reason or another, I haven't been able to until yesterday. Having grown up in a home where video games were a daily routine (at least, during the summers between school years), I have a lot of history beginning with the Atari and the original Nintendo system that made the premise to this movie instantly stand out.Whenever I don't see a movie soon after release, I always bring a bit of baggage into it from the recommendations of those around me. Most have been glowing, but there have been a few detractors. Nevertheless, I tried to keep an open mind and rid myself of any expectations before watching the film for myself. 

Wreck-It Ralph is the villain in an 8-bit arcade game entitled "Fix-It Felix Jr.", where Ralph wrecks an apartment building and the player controls the titular Felix to fix the damage before the time expires. However, Ralph is envious of the attention that Felix gets from the other characters in their game. Ralph lives alone in a dump full of discarded bricks, and is starting to question his identity as a "bad guy", even attending a support group of video game villains to cope with the issue. However, after a disastrous 30th Anniversary Party of their arcade game, Ralph resorts to going "Turbo" (participating in an arcade game that he doesn't belong to) in order to receive the one thing he sees as his ticket to likability... a hero's medal.

This movie is easily one of the most original films I've seen in a while. The concept of arcade games being able to interact and each character having a personal life once the arcade closes is really great, and the creativity involved in the manifestation of each game world is astounding. Not only are the visuals in this film terrific, however, but the story is well written, with characters to root for and suspenseful situations in spite of the "juvenile" target audience. There are great twists and pay-offs in this movie that one doesn't normally experience in animated films (see The Croods). The unique quality of the premise requires the story to have very specific rules, and the film plays within those rules to great effect.

While it took a little while for the film to get going, it wasn't long before I was emotionally invested in Ralph's plight. He continues to insist that he's not a bad guy (despite literally being a "bad guy") and we completely understand his struggles. Part of the relatability of these characters comes down to the voice work. John C. Reilly does a great job bringing an every-man quality to Ralph, while Sarah Silverman is absolutely adorable as Vanellope Von Schweetz (a little girl with an unfortunate glitch). Their interplay is one of the best parts of this film, and the relationship they form is truly touching in certain moments.

"Wreck-It Ralph" is a great family film that can be enjoyed by nostalgic video game fans and kids alike. It might not be as good as "Brave" in my opinion, but I think it's right up there with "Rise of the Guardians" for my second favorite animated film of 2012. This is one of Disney's best efforts in quite some time, and if they continue on this trajectory, they may even reach the heights of Pixar before we know it. I give "Wreck-It Ralph" three and a half stars.

WRECK-IT RALPH is rated PG for some rude humor and mild action/violence