Film: ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ takes you back to the arcade

By Will Ashton |
Wreck-It Ralph | Directed by Rich Moore | Rated PG
RATING: 3.5/5

Despite some notable exceptions like The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, films adapted, or based on, video games have not had a good road to the silver screen.

Even the most die-hard of gamers will have a hard time defending cinematic garbage like Super Mario Bros., Resident Evil, Alone in the Dark, etc. Hell, my film review colleague Nathan Gordon called the latest video game movie adaptation, Silent Hill: Revelation “one of worst movies I have ever seen.” Ouch.

Knowing this, it is my pleasure to say that Wreck-It Ralph, the latest video-game inspired film to be released by Hollywood, is actually good.

Wreck-It Ralph has a great premise. Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) has been a video game villain for more than 30 years in the video game Fix-It Felix Jr — he basically plays the role of Donkey Kong to Felix’s Mario in Donkey Kong Jr. Despite being a relatively good person, due to his game status, he’s been isolated by his fellow game characters and forced to live with only his tree stump and his pile of bricks outside of his 8-bit town.

Tired of living life like this, Ralph is determined to become a hero by earning his own medal and earning the love of his character peers. After leaving his game one night, or “turbo-ing” from it as it is referred throughout the movie, he visits multiple characters and games located around his arcade, hoping to find his golden status and pride within his virtual hometown.

The biggest sin that Wreck-It Ralph commits is that it peaks in its first 30 minutes. It starts out with a bang, filling itself with so many clever and well-written arcade video game jokes. Through various, often hilarious cameos from retro video game characters such as Pac-Man, Sonic, Bowser and others, the movie becomes its own video game version of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

But when the plot decides to remain locked inside the world of Sugar Rush, a race track game that’s practically a combination of Candy Land and Need for Speed, it then stops the video game puns and make either candy-related jokes, quite a few of which are quite funny, or some pretty low-brow humor. Both of which can be fine in their own right, but for a film that is so influenced and centered on video games, it’s an odd, and possibly lazy, choice to take the film in this direction.

But besides this, Wreck-It Ralph is still a clever, entertaining, well-made, and likeable film in many ways.  The voice acting all around, especially from Reilly and Sarah Silverman, is very good, and the animation looks fantastic. Plus, the animation team packs in so many visual background jokes that it makes me want to revisit the film just to look around and see all the hidden jokes, even though I’d be unlikely to get as many of them as there were.

Despite its first CG effort, Chicken Little, being less than adequate, Disney has been continuing to improve in computer-generated animation that’s not within the PIXAR wheelhouse. While not as good as Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph shows a lot of imagination and heart in its characters, set designs and humor.

There’s an obvious love for video games that is shown here, and it makes me disappointed that they sort of copped-out of their potential after such a promising first act. I’m not much of a gamer — that’s Ian Ording’s job around here — but I’ve been around the arcade block enough times to understand enough references to have a blast. Even if you know next to nothing about video games, Wreck-It Ralph offers enough warmth and character that it allows audiences of all sorts, particularly the young, to join in on the fun.

It doesn’t take the cake as my favorite animated movie so far this year, but Wreck-It Ralph is still a very lively and fun film worthy of any true gamer and non-gamer’s quarters.


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