Film Review: Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

‘Ralph’ not a wreck: Great gamer movie provides laughs for all ages, 5/5 stars

Todd Miller | Collegio Writer

"Wreck-It Ralph" (2012, Disney/Buena Vista)

“Wreck-It Ralph” (2012, Disney/Buena Vista)

As someone who enjoys video games and gaming culture, I understood “Wreck-It Ralph” had the potential to be entertaining or depressingly disappointing. I can say that “Wreck-It Ralph” exceeded my expectations, and built itself on such strong storytelling, visual and entertaining foundation, that even Ralph could not tear it down.
Ralph (John C. Reilly) is the villain in the arcade platforming game “Fix-It Felix Jr.” Although his game has been plugged-in for 30 years, Ralph has been losing his steam as the game’s bad guy, becoming jealous of the game’s protagonist, “Fix-It” Felix Jr. (Jack McBrayer). After a falling-out with the NPC “Nicelanders” of his game, Ralph leaves “Fix-It Felix Jr.” to find a hero’s medal and earn some respect within his game. But without a villain, the game faces getting unplugged, meaning the loss of a home and work for the characters.
Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope Von Schweets (Sarah Silverman) of Disney's "Wreck-It Ralph."

Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) and Vanellope Von Schweets (Sarah Silverman) of Disney’s “Wreck-It Ralph.”

The first thing I will praise the film for is the fantastic writing. Although the plot idea is fairly new, the writers did a wonderful job keeping it interesting and engaging. The story starts off strong and gets stronger through the climax and the end. It only falters at one point: The middle act gets somewhat uninteresting, and I found myself just waiting for things to pick up again. But I did not wait in vain; the final act of the movie has a fantastic payoff, featuring one of the best animated film climaxes I’ve ever seen. I simply could not find something to criticize.
The filmmakers kept the characters interesting, and they all felt just right. With the exception of, perhaps, Vanellope von Schweetz’s (Sarah Silverman) impudence, which wore on my nerves as much as it did Ralph’s.
Even Sgt. Tamora Jean Calhoun’s (Jane Lynch), the main character of “Hero’s Duty,” obviously cliché backstory was well-done. Although it affects her and her character arc, it is still mentioned that she was programmed with a tragic back-story, and the idea is handled well.
The movie also had a fantastic villain, but that’s all I will say about that.
As a film seeped in gaming culture, it is clearly going to have outside references to real-world games, which is seen in most of the film’s advertisements. While these are present, the movie handles them with care. They don’t appear every few seconds; instead they are nicely spread throughout the movie. The viewers, if they’re in the know, can get a quick laugh from the reference, but the film moves on. It doesn’t build itself on outside humor, it uses it to add flavor to something great.
The visuals are nicely done and I enjoyed the fact that each game clearly had its own visual style. It was easy to tell, without any other point of reference, whether a scene was taking place in “Hero’s Duty,” “Sugar Rush” or whatever. Each setting was styled as differently as the games they took place in.
Character animation were nice, too. Characters from the newer games had smooth and “high resolution” movement, while the NPCs from “Fix-It Felix Jr.” had stiff, almost jittery movements, as you would expect from characters in a 30 year-old arcade game. However, I didn’t see this in most of Felix’s movements, and almost none of Ralph’s animation. Understandably, because he’s the main character, but it breaks the consistency of that visual detail.
If you see anything any time soon, I recommend “Wreck-It Ralph.” It has to be, with a little doubt, one of the best movies, certainly the best animated movie, I’ve seen this year.

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