Welcome to the official relaunch of REVIEWPOINT, a segment that is coming over from my Out on Limbs blog like a pilgrim on the Mayflower. If you're unaware of how this works, reviews are based on a 3-point scale of HIT, RICOCHET, and MISS. These essentially translate to Good, Ok, and Bad respectively. What better way to start things off for Fanboys Anonymous than to go right into a film dedicated to game aficionados? It's time to review Disney's Wreck-It Ralph.
First, a little backstory. For those that don't know, I'm one of those people who gets to the movie theater early, tries to sit in the direct center of the auditorium, pays close attention to every detail as much as possible and immediately checks the IMDB trivia when I get home. As such, I'm also someone who will write myself a note on my phone if a preview trailer interests me a lot. This film was one of those instances. I've seen all but four Pixar films (A Bug's Life, Cars, Cars 2, and Brave) and they have a great track record with me, so once I saw this trailer, I knew I would have to check it out. Imagine my surprise when I found it that it WASN'T a Pixar film at all - just under the same Disney wing. If you didn't tell me, I wouldn't have known the difference, because in the end, the film delivers.
WARNING: SPOILER ALERT. If you do not want to know details about the movie, do not read what follows.
The film centers around the character of Ralph who is actually the villain of a video game entitled Fix-It Felix. Inspired by the gameplay of the original Donkey Kong game, Ralph stands atop a building that he destroys until the hero, Felix, can repair it and toss Ralph into the mud below, receiving the admiration of his peers and a medal for his efforts. Ralph is clearly the antagonist of the game, shouting his trademark phrase "I'm gonna wreck it" and attempting to do just that.
What we find out, though, is that despite Ralph's role as the villain, he is in fact not a "bad guy", as put by Zangief from the Street Fighter series. Several villains of the video games in the arcade they share have a support group called Bad Anon [ahem, should I even throw out the Fanboys Anonymous nod here?] where they discuss their feelings on their jobs. Ralph is tired of being the villain and would like to be a hero for once, but this is forbidden as it is against the code of the game. Rules are rules.
When Ralph becomes aware of the ability to win a heroic medal from another video game, Hero's Duty, he sets forth to achieve it and bring it back to his game to get the respect and admiration he deserves. Along the way, he befriends a little girl named Vanellope Von Schweetz from a racing game called Sugar Rush. Vanellope, voiced by Sarah Silverman, is an outcast in her game's world because she is actually a glitch in the coding and not a true character. Without outlining the entire film, essentially put, their goals intersect along with some other colorful characters and so on and so forth with lessons taught along the way - you know how these things go.
The true gem of this film is the attention to detail. While the story holds up, the acting is on par and the big elements can be checked off, it's the little things that give it the charm. There are a ton of cameos from video game characters of the past including Q*Bert, Ryu and M. Bison from Street Fighter, Sonic the Hedgehog, Bowser and many more.
The cameos are made that much more fun due to the jokes that accompany them. Some are throwaways, like graffiti stating "all your base are belong to us", but others become true plot points. That Bad Anon support group is housed in the rectangle that the ghosts are stored in Pac-Man and headed by the orange ghost, Clyde. One of my favorite parts of the film involves Ralph leaving this room and stealing the cherry from the Pac-Man game itself.
I thought it was a spectacular idea for the midway access point between games, called Game Central Station (a pun on Grand Central Station), to be represented as a surge protector extension that housed the electrical sockets each game was plugged into, allowing characters to go into other games via their power chords. There are also funny references to candy in the Sugar Rush sections of the film, with one of my favorites being a donut named Duncan (aka Dunkin).
The characters are fleshed out well enough for a kids film and were all intriguing enough to warrant their screen time for the most part. This makes it that much easier to just sit back and look out for Easter eggs and hidden jokes rather than struggle to identify with the protagonists for the film's sake.
For the most part, there isn't much to complain about as far as I'm concerned, though there are a few things that I would have liked tweaked a little bit. The weakest character of the bunch in my opinion is King Candy, who could have used a few more minutes of development to set him up for how important he ends up being. It's a bit of a shame that so much of the movie has to take place in the Sugar Rush universe and that we couldn't see more instances of Ralph's "fish out of water" situation with other video games. One video game character that I was disappointed to not see was Kirby. I was also surprised that, to the best of my knowledge, there were no Tetris jokes. It seemed like and easy thing to throw out there, for Tetris blocks to come in for a quick gag. Of course, there's always the chance that these things and more could have been edited for time constraints and will appear in the deleted scenes. One more disappointment I had was with the music. I didn't find it as catchy as many other animated songs can be (and in the instance of the Sugar Rush song, I actually found it quite annoying to listen to during the credits).
THE RATING REVIEWPOINT: HIT.
I might not be the most avid gamer out there, but I knew enough going into this that I could appreciate a lot of what they did in this film. Whether it was the Konami Code, the sound effect of Fix-It Felix's jumps, or the characterization of Sour Bill, the references were enough on their own for me to enjoy this film. Outside of that aspect, the story still holds up rather well and it's certainly on my radar as a possible winner for Best Animated Film at the next Academy Awards. If you're a kid at heart or you have kids of your own, I would recommend going to see this movie. As long as you're not going into it with cynical eyes, you'll more than likely enjoy it.
SIDE NOTE: Before the film, there was a short entitled Paperman directed by John Kahrs which I absolutely loved. I highly suggest checking it out if you can.