November 13, 2012

Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

WHAT IF YOU WORKED at the same job for 30 years, with no change in your routine or position, and no acknowledgement from your co-workers – ever? Would you look to break free and find a better life?

That’s the premise of Wreck-It Ralph, Disney’s 52nd animated feature film. Tired of smashing buildings for 30 years as the bad guy in the arcade game Fix-It Felix, Jr., Ralph (John C. Reilly) leaves and explores other games in his arcade, in search of being a hero. After stealing the medal from the first-person shoot-‘em-up Hero’s Duty, Ralph frantically escapes and lands in the racing game Sugar Rush, with Felix (Jack McBrayer) and Hero’s Duty’s Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch) in hot pursuit.

Gamers from Generation X and younger will drool over the abundance of game titles and characters that pop up in the first act of Wreck-It Ralph, especially during the 30-year time lapse of Ralph’s arcade (titles go buzzing by) and the early scenes of Game Central Station, where characters from arcade games old and new cross paths on their way home from work.

What’s largely missing from the second act of Wreck-It Ralph is what Pixar seems to have sucked from Disney’s films over the last two decades: character development. For quite a while, the film is largely plot-driven, as we sit back and watch Ralph jump around the various video game worlds and meet all walks of digitized life, including Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), a glitchy little girl from Sugar Rush who has dreams of being a racing champion. As two kindred misfits, she and Ralph make a deal to help each other get what they want, and the action continues…

…until the third act, which begins with Ralph doing something that seems devastatingly cruel to Vanellope, yet makes us leap to where we should be in terms of caring for the characters. We hope Ralph will learn the truth about Sugar Rush’s mysterious past and help Vanellope achieve her dreams before the finale, which culminates in a one-two punch of a fantastic car race (including a huge reveal of the film’s true villain) coupled with the impending destruction of Sugar Rush from a horde of giant cyber-bugs Ralph accidentally brought in from Hero’s Duty.

Looking back on all the buzz that preceded Wreck-It Ralph’s release, there was no way for it to live up to the hype. But it still delivers in terms of pure entertainment. Some name-calling and poop jokes aside, it’s hopefully another solid step in Disney’s emergence from Pixar’s shadow and back to the quality animated storytelling they hinted at with Bolt a few years back.


What did FilmBoy and Jack-Jack think?
FilmBoy loved Wreck-It Ralph – he and I couldn’t stop talking about it as we left the theater. His affection for video games and their characters surely played a part. Jack-Jack thought the film was “weird,” but couldn’t elaborate. The plot details and continuous action may have been a lot for him to process as a 6-year-old.

Is it suitable for your kids?
Wreck-It Ralph is rated PG for “some rude humor and mild action violence.”
Violence/Scariness: Heavily armed soldiers shoot at giant cyber-bugs, some of which grow machine gun arms and shoot (no one is hurt). A character comically pulls a zombie's heart out of his chest, then puts it back. In another comic scene, Calhoun punches Felix several times, giving him black eyes, broken teeth, and bruises (they heal immediately when he touches his face with his magic hammer). In a brief flashback, a character is eaten by an alien bug. Calhoun and Ralph occasionally punch others and destroy their surroundings. Vanellope drives her car into a wall and comically spits out a tooth (no blood). Mean girls tear apart Vanellope’s car, which Ralph helps rebuild but then destroys himself because he’s told that racing it could kill her (she sobs and calls him names). The film’s villain makes a final appearance in a mutated form that could be scary to young children. A little girl transforms into a princess and tells other girls they will be executed for being mean; she then says it was a joke. There’s talk about characters dying permanently outside of their own video games; a few scenes show characters in life-threatening situations.
Language: There’s frequent use of insults and name-calling, including “I hate you," "shut your chew hole," "pussy willows," "doody," "numbskull," “moron,” “idiot,” “dumb,” “stupid,” “diaper-baby,” “stinky brain,” and my personal favorite, “Miss Fartfeathers.” Rude humor includes mentions of “puke,” “butt load,” and a running joke about Hero’s Duty (as in “doody.”).
Alcohol: A character pours himself a martini. A scene takes place in a game called Tapper, in which characters drink root beer from beer mugs. Characters are also briefly seen drinking at a dance party.
Adult situations: Two characters exchange a passionate kiss in two different scenes.

Will your FilmMother want to watch it?
Even if she’s not a serious gamer, she’ll love Wreck-It Ralph: endearing characters on a fantastic adventure, with several tender moments served up along the way. (Also, Disney, if you’re reading this: My wife said she would love to play the game Sugar Rush for real. Get on that, please.)

In one of these hands, I’ve got Q*Bert.
Go ahead…guess.

Wreck-It Ralph
* Directors: Rich Moore
* Screenwriters: Phil Johnston, Jennifer Lee
* Stars: John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Sarah Silverman
* MPAA Rating: PG

Rent Wreck-It Ralph from Netflix >>


Budd said...

I want to see this. While Disney could make several games from this movie, I bet the only one that gets made is Wreck it Ralph, which will just be a retelling of the game and be aimed at 8yo game play. Sadly.

StuartOhQueue said...

I loved this movie. Being a huge gamer couldn't have hurt but everyone in the theater seemed to enjoy themselves.

Also, Budd, I was thinking the same thing. Even some wiiware/xbl versions of a few of the original arcade titles would be nice.

Unknown said...

I've been looking forward to seeing Wreck-it-Ralph but haven't had the chance...definitely soon! BTW - I too enjoyed Bolt!

Gemma said...

Love this review! Thx!


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