Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Movie Review: Wreck-It Ralph

Wreck-It Ralph
Directed by: Rich Moore.
Written by: Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee.
Starring: John C. Reilly (Ralph), Sarah Silverman (Vanellope), Jack McBrayer (Felix), Jane Lynch (Calhoun), Adam Carolla (Wynnchel), Alan Tudyk (King Candy), Mindy Kaling (Taffyta Muttonfudge), Joe Lo Truglio (Markowski), Ed O'Neill (Mr. Litwak), Dennis Haysbert (General Hologram), Edie McClurg (Mary ).

Poor Ralph. For 30 years, he has had to be the bad guy in an arcade game, Fix-It Felix Jr., where his job is to try and destroy a building, before that do-gooder Fix It Felix Jr. himself, with a magic hammer, comes along, fixes the building, and save all the residents, who then give him pie and a medal, while they throw Ralph into the mud below. Even after the arcade closes for the day, the other characters in the game celebrate in their nice apartments, while Ralph retires to his home in the dump. One day he goes to a Bad Anon meeting, where all the bad guys from the arcade games gather to tell their stories – about how hard it is to be the bad guy. But hey, just because you’re a “bad guy”, doesn’t mean you’re a bad guy, right? All Ralph wants is to just once get a medal of his own. So Ralph does the unthinkable and game jumps. One day, instead of reporting for work in his game, he disguises himself as a soldier for the new game Hero’s Duty, so he can win a medal. He does, but botches the escape, and ends up, along with an evil Cy-Bug, in the candy colored girls racing game Sugar Rush, where he almost immediately makes an enemy, and then a friend, of Vanellope, a “glitch” who just wants to race like the rest of the girls. Of course, by game jumping, he has put his own game at risk of being unplugged – and by bringing a Cy-Bug along with him into Sugar Rush, he may have put the whole arcade at risk, so Fix-It Felix teams up with Calhoun, the main character from Hero’s Duty, to bring Ralph home, and stop the Cy-Bug.

Wreck-It Ralph may not be a Pixar film, but it operates on the same principles of a Pixar film – give the kids a lot of brightly colored action and humor, while sliding in sly in-jokes and nostalgia for their parents. There’s no mistake that I, who played a lot of video games as a teenager, but very few (other than the yearly installment of EA Sports’ NHL series) since then, could almost immediately identify almost all the “real” video game characters that Wreck-It Ralph has in it. While it’s clear that Hero’s Duty is modeled, at least somewhat, on Call of Duty, for the most part the real game characters the movie has could be found on your old Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis. The movie wants to get that nostalgic laughter from the parents in the audience – and it does a wonderful job of that. Wreck-It Ralph is not quite at the level of the best Pixar movies, but it’s much better than most of the movies made for kids these days.

I loved the animation of Wreck-It Ralph, which is almost endlessly inventive. The film, directed by Rich Moore, moves seamlessly between the different video games it takes place in, but I loved how the characters from different games moved differently, depending on when the game was made. The Nicelanders (the residents of the building Fix-It Felix is building) move with that choppy motion anyone who grew up with a Nintendo will immediately recognize. When we move into Hero’s Duty, it has the same sort of energy that the best first person shooters have. And the candy land created in Sugar Rush is almost endlessly inventive, and sprawling. The movie is a visual delight from beginning to end.

The filmmakers also cast the movie very well. Is there anyone who can sound more depressed, and yet still be lovable as John C. Reilly, who was perhaps the only choice to give Ralph his voice? Or anyone who sounds more like a goody-two shoes, innocent hero than Jack McBrayer, who is great as Fix-It Felix? Or any woman who sounds more convincing than Jane Lynch barking out orders as Calhoun? The real treat here though is Sarah Silverman as Vanellope, who may not have jumped to mind to play an a character this cute and lovable, even if she does have a mischievous side. But Silverman nails it, and makes Vanellope into perhaps the most lovable animated creation this year.

Yes, the movie devolves into the kind of loud, seemingly never ending climax with lots of action and noise, that can grow tiresome after a while, unless you’re a kid. Yet, there’s some much here to love, that I’ll forgive the film for taking the easy way out with its finale. Wreck-It Ralph is one of the better animated films you’ll see this year.

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