Wreck-It Ralph Review
What You Need to Know:
Before the feature, you will see the beautiful short Paperman from director John Kahrs about a man who meets a woman at the train station, but the only token he has to remember her is a sheet with her lipstick.
Rich Moore makes his feature length directorial debut on this highly anticipated Disney/Pixar film. John C. Reilly provides the voice for the titular Ralph, a Donkey Kong-like villain in an old arcade game. After thirty years of being the villain, Ralph decides to abandon his game to venture out into other games and become a hero. Ralph’s opposite, Fix-It Felix Jr. (Jack McBrayer) must track down Ralph to prevent the game from being unplugged.
Warning: I generally avoid spoilers, but there will possibly be a few spoilers for early scenes in the film. I will also go very in depth on the short, Paperman.
What I Thought:
John Kahrs does an amazing job of combining computer and traditional animation in his first directing credit, Paperman. Check out a short series of featurettes where he talks about some of his design decisions. The film itself is beautiful and is a feat of storytelling. Similar to much of Wall-E, the short tells a warm and heartening story without any dialogue.The story itself is a tried and true story of serendipity with a Disney touch of flair. The layering of traditional line animation over CG character models looks beautiful and gave me a sense of nostalgia. The line drawing added an extra touch of fluidity that adds to the life of the characters. All in all, another in a long line of beautiful and imaginative shorts before a Pixar film, but this one lands firmly in the hands of a new and reinvigorated Disney Animation Studio.
In an animated feature as well-made as Wreck-It Ralph, the voice cast cannot be overlooked. John C. Reilly is a wonder as the lead, Wreck-It Ralph. He doesn’t oversell the emotion of the character. Sarah Silverman as Vanellope is one part adorable and one part hilarious. Sarah Silverman is not the most subtle in her comedy, but she’s not annoying in this role. Jack McBrayer plays up his usual middle-American naivete with success as Fix-It Felix Jr. Jane Lynch does her best R. Lee Ermey impression as Hero’s Duty star, Calhoun. The character is tough, but doesn’t lack for weakness. And finally, Alan Tudyk takes on the role of King Candy. He is the only actor who pulls no stops in his voice acting.
The actors also had amazing characters to work with from a screenplay written by Phil Johnston (Cedar Rapids) and Jennifer Lee. All of these characters feel familiar and memorable. The story sets up an interesting world where all of our favorite video game characters interact with each other. Ralph’s Bad-Anon cohorts include video game classics like Bowser, Zangief, and Clyde. They travel via power cords to the central station of their share power strip. There are homeless/unplugged game characters in the central station who have escaped their unplugged game. Everything about how the world of the video characters works and makes me wish there was a little more exploration into it.
There are some fun visual things done to define each game. Citizens of the Fix-It Felix game have sudden movements which emulate the stiff movements of the 8-bit game it is based on. I do wish there was a visual style that really differentiated the games such as an 8-bit style for Ralph and Felix. Tons of easter eggs litter the movie from graffiti announcing “Sheng Long was here” to Dig Dug making an escape when Ralph wanders the central station. The nods aren’t limited to video games either as other asides are made once inside the Sugar Rush kart game.
As a gamer since childhood, there’s a certain amount of nostalgia and love for this movie. If you didn’t spend days and stacks of quarters in the arcades, you will still be able to enjoy this movie. The first act of the film really encapsulates what was expected of the films with many cameos and some game-jumping, but the film quickly transitions to an extended stay in the candy-themed Sugar Rush kart game. The decision to spend much of the time in Sugar Rush allows for a more accessible story. While I would have wished for more game-jumping, keeping the film settled in a single game allowed the film to make jokes and asides not solely targeted toward gamers. The characters are also well-written, and the voice cast excel at bringing them to life. The world created is ripe for sequels and I am looking forward to the possibility of a sequel. If anything, at least you’ll be able to see the mesmerizing short, Paperman.