Frankly, I’m surprised it took Disney this long to make Wreck-It Ralph, a movie that draws obvious inspiration from the studio’s own Toy Story franchise. Both believe in the idea that inanimate objects occupy their own worlds and are populated with characters that have distinct personalities, feelings and problems. Whereas Toy Story was about physical toys, Wreck-It Ralph is about abstract video game heroes and villains, although the latter don’t have it so good. As bad guys, they’re ostracized and lonely, mostly by default, because each character is programmed to believe they play a specific role, even though they technically have minds of their own and can choose to act outside the rules of their games.
Movie Review: Wreck-It Ralph
By Matthew Huntley
November 12, 2012
That’s what Ralph (voice of John C. Reilly) decides to do. He’s bad guy in a decades-old arcade game called “Fix-It Felix Jr.,” and every day, Ralph - who looks like a cross between a human and an ogre, with abnormally large arms and a shock of unruly hair - is expected to destroy a generic-looking apartment building just so Felix (Jack McBrayer), who’s controlled by the user, can come along, repair the damages and collect praise - not to mention a gold medal - from the building’s tenants. And it always ends the same way, with Ralph getting tossed off the side into a puddle of mud.
At a bud guy support group called Bad-Anon, which sports the slogan, “One game at a time,” Ralph commiserates with his fellow baddies that he’s tired of this routine and longs to be invited into the apartment building with Felix and the other tenants. At their game’s 30th anniversary party, which Ralph was excluded from, one snarling tenant says he’ll only accept Ralph into their social circle if he can win a medal like Felix, and so Ralph embarks on a mission to do just that. He abandons the “Felix” game and heads off toward the arcade’s surge protector, which serves as the main hub between all the different games, and unwisely sneaks into the more modern “Hero’s Duty,” a first-person shooter where the user must destroy bugs while being guided by a tough, female leader named Calhoun (Jane Lynch).
But the crossing over from one video game to another is strictly forbidden, and we see why, since Ralph has no idea what he’s in store for and eventually winds up in “Sugar Rush,” a racing game not unlike “Mario Kart.” Here, he meets Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), a little girl with an attitude who’s outcast as a glitch because she was supposedly never intended to be part of the game. Like Ralph, all Vanellope wants is to be accepted and thinks she’ll have a chance if she wins a race and establishes herself as a permanent avatar. But the leader of “Sugar Rush,” a high-pitched and squeaky little weasel named King Candy (Alan Tudyk), has his own reasons for keeping Vanellope from winning.
More of the plot, I will not say, except that it, like most of the movie’s other qualities, is pretty much par for the course as far as Disney computer-animated movies go. Essentially, it retools a reliable yet winning formula, one that’s bright, cheerful, funny and packed with charm. Kids will love it for these and other usual reasons; and it comes equipped with positive messages (as most Disney movies do). It’s also entertaining for adults, especially those who’ve played video games in the last 20 years. They’ll get a kick out of the film’s nostalgia and references to all the medium’s most popular characters, including ones from the Nintendo (Bowser) and Sega Genesis (Sonic the Hedgehog) universes.
A movie like “Wreck-It Ralph” is sort of inevitably likable, although it’s not especially innovative, and it doesn’t break any new ground narratively or animation-wise. Does it have to in order to be enjoyed? No, because at the very least, it possesses enough magic to make us smile and put us at ease. It’s light entertainment, as opposed to the more challenging, indelible kind offered by other animated features like Ratatouille, Up and the recent ParaNorman. Unlike these, we can watch Wreck-It Ralph once and walk away happy and satisfied, yet never think there’s reason any reason to see it again. On the other hand, if you have kids and eventually buy them a copy, odds are you won’t have a choice in the matter.