Wreck-It Ralph is an animated film from Disney, part of the new wave of the “Pixar method” of film-making: story is king. Period. And director Rich Moore (with help from writers Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee) really hit it out of the park with this film.
The title character, Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly), is tired of his job in the title video game. Day in and day out, Ralph spends his time wrecking the Niceland Apartment building inhabited by Fix-It Felix (voiced by Jack McBrayer) and his fans. After being defeated, he always goes to sleep, alone, in the brick-pile dump near the apartments.
Ralph dreams of one day winning a hero medal like those Ralph collects, and thereby ending his time as a video game villain. So one day he leaves the game, commandeers the outfit from a character from another game, and goes through Game Central Station (fashioned after Grand Central Station with electrical outlet architecture) into a that game: Hero’s Duty.
After fighting his way to the top of the central tower in the game, he wins the medal, but then accidentally sets off a chain of events which threatens all the games in the arcade. Along the way, he meets Vanelope (voiced by Sarah Silverman), a cute, glitchy character who is hunted by all the other characters in her game, but dreams of one day winning the Sugar Rush race so she can be a selectable by the visitors to Litwak’s Arcade.
The attention to detail in the film was amazing. There are so many references and hidden nods to video games from the very beginning (Pong, anyone?) that it will take you multiple viewings to be able to find them all—and even then, you may never find all of them. One of the main secondary characters, Calhoun (voiced by Jane Lynch), is from the first-person shooter Hero’s Duty, and her non-nonsense manner is spot-on to how many of the scripts in such games are written. I think the script writers had all kinds of fun trying to cram in as many references as possible, perhaps even moreso than the animators.
The music was very enjoyable as well. All throughout the film, the feel of the different games in the arcade is helped by the 8-bit to current styles used, depending on the age of the game being depicted. Fans of both older and newer games will be pleased with everything incorporated into the soundtrack.
Finally, I would be remiss in my duty as a reviewer if I failed to mention the Academy Award-winning animated short film which played before Wreck-It Ralph in theaters. Paperman is a mostly black-and-white film which tells of the fateful meeting of two people and how paper airplanes brought them together. I recommend watching that first, before watching Ralph, just to get the theater experience. It’s a wonderful little film and definitely deserves the Oscar.
I can’t recommend Wreck-It Ralph (and Paperman) enough. I enjoy both immensely every time I watch them, and I will be watching them many times. They are definitely among my favorite 2012 films. I think you’ll enjoy them, too.
Release Date: October 29, 2012 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG
Alcohol/Drugs: 0 (unless you count root beer)
Violence: 2 (some mild fantasy and science fiction violence)