Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

Despite being relatively deep in the gaming scene, it took me quite a while to get into Wreck-It Ralph. Perhaps it’s because all of the cameos and references are front-loaded, or maybe because world-building takes up pretty much the entirety of the first act, but I really wasn’t digging what the film had to offer. And then, by the time the titular character reached a sugary riff on Mario Kart, I was hooked. I had bought in, and I was completely engrossed. Wreck-It Ralph won me over.

The basic idea here is that Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) is sick and tired of being treated like a bad guy. He’s in an arcade game called Fix-It Felix, Jr., where he destroys the building which needs to be fixed by Felix. It’s a simple title, and has lasted in the arcade for 30 years. Thirty years of doing the same job has taken its toll on Ralph, so he has decided to travel to other arcade cabinets — the game characters are sentient and can do that in this universe, which is pretty awesome — in order to become the hero he has decided he wants to be.

After a brief venture into a shooter game, Hero’s Duty, he winds up inside of a kart racer called Sugar Rush, helping a “glitch” character named Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) attempt to win a race that will allow her to be used by a player character. Unbeknownst to him, he’s released a deadly virus that is quickly multiplying, and has also trapped both Felix Jr. (Jack McBrayer) and the lead of Hero’s Duty (Jane Lynch) inside of Sugar Rush. Oh, and there’s something just a little funny about Sugar Rush, as if some of the characters might be hiding something. I’m sure that won’t amount to anything. Wink.

In all seriousness, there is quite a lot going on, all of which will wind up coming up right at the end. It leads up to an incredibly action-packed climax. When so many things need to be concluded — and the filmmakers are smart enough to not leave these types of things unsolved — you know you’re in for quite the finale. Wreck-It Ralph definitely delivers on that promise.

Not only is it filled with action, but it also contains some very well-developed characters. It works almost as effectively as a drama as it does at anything else, and I can’t help but admit that I was close to tearing up during a couple of the moments. I say that not because it was particularly sad, but because it’s so sweet for most of its running time that you feel such joy when things go right and quite a bit of sadness when it doesn’t seem like things will go the characters’ way.

Both of the main characters are just looking for some form of acceptance. But there’s a lot more to them than that, and when their relationship develops, it feels quite natural. Yes, I’m aware I’m talking about video game characters from games that aren’t even real. That’s how well they are presented to us. It makes everything feel so much more important, too. When you care about these people, it matters to you when their lives are put in peril.

The world in which the film takes place is also quite interesting, even if it isn’t really used to its full potential. You have all of the video game characters that Disney could license in one central hub, and all they get used for are some quick cameos. After seeing Wreck-It Ralph, imagine the finale with a whole bunch of other video game characters, too. I can only imagine how fantastic that action scene would be. Still, the idea is intriguing and if sequels get made, it would be a fun premise to explore further. You don’t even need Ralph to be the central character when there are so many other potential games to take a look at.

I have only two problems with Wreck-It Ralph. The first is that anyone over the age of twelve will see pretty much every turn it takes from a mile away — save for one nice surprise near the end that … doesn’t wind up amounting to much and was kind of disappointing, to be honest. It all still works because of the characters, but a bit of divergence from the land of cliché would have been appreciated. The second is that it’s not really all that funny. It has moments of real laughter, and I’m sure others will find it funnier than I did, but I didn’t laugh a whole lot.

Still, you can take the gorgeous visuals, strong characters and pretty good voice acting, throw in some fun cameos that both new-school and old-school gamers will be able to recognize, and you have the formula for a successful movie. I really did enjoy Wreck-It Ralph. It’s a film that will hold up on second viewings, and will perhaps benefit from them. You have the world built for you on the second journey, and you can build an even bigger appreciation for the little touches. Wreck-It Ralph is a film that wins you over with its charm, its sweetness, and its genuine enthusiasm for its subject matter. Whether you’re a young child looking for a fun, family adventure, or an adult wanting a nostalgia trip that also winds up being a very enjoyable story, I can definitely recommend this movie. It was a great deal of fun, and I absolutely think it’s worth watching. It might take a bit of time to fully get into, but once you’re in, you’re in for a good ride.

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