It has been quite the weak year for animated features. Brave didn’t please audiences as much as other Pixar films, and the stupid Madagascar films continued to bore adults. But then comes along Wreck-It Ralph, a movie in the vein of Shrek, where the adult and child love the movie.
Ralph is a very simple movie at heart, but has plenty of deeper messages. Kids will see what they want, and so will adults. Kids will see a man who thinks he is bad be a good person. Adults will see a complex film about heroes and their somewhat ambiguous morality. It’s amazing how easily the movie balances these two extremes. Never does the audience feel like these plot twists are forced or shoved in for the sake of it. Everything feels natural for the story. The plot does a great job of giving the audience to care for each and every character. Even a character like King Candy, who turns out to be a villain for the movie. The rules of the world are also stated nicely. The audience doesn’t have to sit through some long exposition scene about how and why they game jump. The rules are brought up naturally, or in a funny way.
Yes, there are video game references a plenty. They go from obscure arcade games like Tappers, to main stream characters like Sonic. The majority of Ralph takes place in a Mario Kart knock off, with plenty of jokes at that series. It should take a couple viewings to get all of the hints and nods to games. While many movies have tried to have their setting be a video game, none have succeeded. But Ralph soars in this setting. It’s clear the creators have a love for video games, and know what they are about. There are plenty of jokes at modern and classic video games, but there is a respect behind those jokes.
The special effects are on the same level of Pixar. 8-bit characters move in quick motions, as they would when playing the game. If something in an 8-bit game splashes, the puddles are squares. It’s a small thing, but goes a long way to help sell the world that these characters are in. Another big thing is having every character react as they would in their game. On a small scale, this is to be expected. But when there is a huge scene, filled with hundreds of characters, every character acts accordingly. Sonic is in the background of one of these scenes, and we see him get hit with debris. Naturally, he starts blinking and shoots out coins. He was so far in the background, I almost missed it.
Wreck-It Ralph isn’t perfect though. While the writing is great in most scenes, occasionally the writing gets a little on the nose with their message. The movie treads the line well of adult and kid content, but the script creeps into preachy territory every so often. It’s jarring, considering there are a few scenes that are quite dark emotionally, and filled with subtlety. Then we go to a scene that lays everything out on the table. It doesn’t ruin the movie by any means, but it could have been changed.
The voice actors create a great team. No one steals the show, but they all work together to create a better movie. John C. Riley makes Ralph lovable, and instantly the audience feels for the guy. Sarah Silverman makes Vanellope annoying as hell, then the audience’s heart just breaks for her. Her voice is one of the few who can’t be picked out right away. Jane Lynch plays the tough as nails commander well, in a tongue-in-cheek fashion. Jack McBryer was hysterical as Fix It Felix. But the biggest surprise was that Alan Tudyk played King Candy. He sounds nothing like Tudyk’s normal voice. And as I have always said, “Putting Alan Tudyk in your movie ALWAYS makes it better.”
If Wreck-It Ralph proves one thing, it’s that kids don’t need a movie that coddles them. Ralph deals with some heavy emotions that are accentuated by some perfectly voiced scenes. It seemed almost un-Disney to have these characters so sad. But it works. Kids loved the movie, and many were screaming that they wanted to see it again.
Wreck-It Ralph gets 4/5.
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