Film Review: Wreck-It Ralph

4.5

Courtesy of Walt Disney Animation

It is shocking to think that there hasn’t been a major animated film about the world of video games before this point. It only seems natural that Disney, the company that brought us the Tron series would be the one to do it.

Wreck­-It Ralph has had a very persistent marketing campaign throughout the majority of this year. Within its first trailer it ingeniously teased audiences with some clever video game character cameos which ensured the interest of veteran gamers in this otherwise child-oriented film. Adding to that, Disney commissioned the release of the titular character’s video game Fix-It Felix, Jr. to be released for mobile devices. But a strong marketing campaign does not make a film, strong storytelling and great execution does. In a year where animated films have been less than memorable, Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph is set to step up to the plate and take the crown as king of animation in 2012.

 

Wreck-It Ralph is about “bad guy” Ralph who on the 30th anniversary of his game’s release is struggling to continue to find meaning in life. A social pariah and feared by all that are “good,” Ralph decides that a change is necessary. Ralph desires to be a hero and decides to go “game-jumping” to achieve his goal in order to secure a better life. His journey takes him through far-away game lands and brings him face-to-face with a cast of interesting characters.

Courtesy of Walt Disney Animation

The story is rather straight-forward and doesn’t really contain the depth that is usually seen from big-brother studio Pixar’s films. Even so, the film is fun and does a strong job of creating and developing characters that the audience can root for. There is an excellent mix of both laughs and emotional moments keeping the film from becoming either too heavy or too fluffy. The one complaint that I have with the story is that the main villain of the film is slightly forced into the story and feels like just a means to create a climax for the film. He is a forgettable character, but his story arc doesn’t tank the film by any means.

Viewers who are expecting a cameo fest that rivals Who Framed Roger Rabbit may be slightly disappointed. The “Bad-anon” scene from the trailer contains the most cameos within the film, but that isn’t to say the film doesn’t contain plenty of fan service. The creators of the film do a great job of sprinkling little surprises throughout that will elate hardcore gamers and bring giggles of giddiness. There are enough of these to warrant the price of admission for curious gamers into Wreck-It Ralph.

Courtesy of Walt Disney Animation

As a huge fan of John C. Reilly, it is refreshing to hear him doing leading-man voice work for a Disney animated film. Reilly’s talent of being able to balance drama and comedy shines through in this film even if he never physically appears on-screen. Sarah Silverman also does a terrific job as the spunky-yet-adorable racecar driver Vanellope von Schweetz . Jane Lynch of Glee fame and Jack McBrayer of 30 Rock round out the main voice cast with both of them playing characters that are not all that dissimilar from their television counterparts.

On top of solid voice work, the film is not so shabby in the visual department. Wreck-It Ralph is a good-looking animated film. Though it lacks the polish and particle effects that we are accustomed to in a Pixar film, it has subtle touches that drive home the aesthetics of a digital world. The citizens of the Fix-It Felix, Jr. cabinet have twitchy, strobe movement that we would accustom to inhabitants of a two-dimensional world. The character of Vanellope is a “glitched” character in the narrative which requires her to pixelate in and out of existence and the animators pulled off this effect in a stunningly effective and believable way. The worlds that are created and characters that occupy the space give off the illusion of a lived-in video game world with great scale and detail. I would have loved to seen more animation in the 8-bit style, but I am not going to hold that against the film as it is just a personal preference that would have held no bearing over the quality of the film.

Courtesy of Walt Disney Animation

Normally, I would say animation of this caliber would warrant just a four-star rating, but the execution is nearly impeccable and the film does a great job of rewarding initiated gamers which bumps it up a bit. The well-placed cameos will draw you in but the heartfelt story will endear the film to its audiences. In an era where Pixar is in a storytelling rut, it is nice to see that Disney’s “B-team” is still capable of producing top-tier products. Parents, children, and hardcore gamers alike will all gain something from watching Wreck-It Ralph. Not only is it possibly the greatest video game film ever made, but it may very well be one of the better films this year.

Rating: That’s Ult!

2 Comments

  1. Tyler says:

    Cannot agree more. My wife and sister in law loved it, and their not even gamers, so you can probably understand how special this was to someone like me, who grew up with all of these games the film references. The film achieves what Roger Rabbit did for old cartoons, but by way of Pixar’s Toy Story. Beautiful film and a must buy on bluray!

  2. Akio says:

    Although I have yet to see this film, your analysis of the movie confirms my interest in why I am going to see a Disney product. It seems that they made enough of an effort in this film to appeal to a larger crowd beyond the typical “young parents with accompanying children” groups. Love the movie stills you integrated into the review. Great review and I look forward to your work in the future!

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