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Review: Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

Wreck-It Ralph

Rating

Director
Rich Moore
Screenplay
Jennifer Lee, Phil Johnston
Length
108 min.
Starring
John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch, Adam Corolla, Jamie Elman, Rachael Harris, Dennis Haysbert, Mindy Kaling, Edie McClurg, Ed O'Neill, Horatio Sanz, Stefani Scott, Alan Tudyk
MPAA Rating
PG for some rude humor and mild action/violence

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Review
If you ever wondered what happened to your favorite video game characters after you turned off the console, Wreck-It Ralph may be your best bet at finding. Disney's departure from its Princess aesthetic is engaging, entertaining and emotionally satisfying.

John C. Reilly's career of unmitigated disasters has largely erased memories of the potential he once evinced, especially in his Oscar-nominated turn in Chicago. As the voice of the titular Wreck-It Ralph, Reilly infuses the character with an honest klutziness. Watching the "Fix-It Felix" bad guy trip naively through his own game's anniversary party, the deadly "Hero's Duty" and the almost sickeningly sweet "Sugar Rush," you can't help but adore the big lug and Reilly's vocal work aids that tremendously.

As Ralph tries to win a medal to prove to his disdainful "Fix-It Felix" cohorts that he's worthy of their respect, he inadvertently afflicts "Sugar Rush" with a dangerous bug from "Hero's Duty" that threatens to unravel "Sugar Rush" and trap the annoying, but ultimately sweet Vanellope von Schweetz (voiced by Sarah Silverman) inside the game where her glitching seems tied to a mysterious and dangerous programming quirk. Unraveling the story involves characters from all three games trying to work together to save them all.

Silverman is barely recognizable as the glitching wannabe racer, left out of the many races run during the game's "on" time. She has a gravelly immaturity that works surprisingly well. Jack McBrayer who voices the conscienced Felix, teams up with the no-nonsense team leader in Hero's Duty (the voice of Jane Lynch). Both work well within their established television personae (McBrayer on 30 Rock and Lynch on Glee), but that familiarity fits the characters perfectly and leaves much needed character development for other sprites, even though they get their own fascinating, if predictable, development.

Walt Disney Animation has been at the forefront of animation for decades and until Pixar emerged as the dominant force in the medium, Disney was still one of the most influential. Now that they've decided to part ways with their girl-friendly products for a more rounded offering, it's interesting to see many of the innovations they used applied to a film like Wreck-it Ralph. Take for example the individual character animations. With Pixar, it's difficult sometimes to tell who the real actors are who are performing voices in those films. While some are somewhat easy to ascertain, others are not. This is a technique Disney very successfully employed through its early 90's renaissance. They captured the actors on film and animators used those facial expressions and images to craft characters that looked quite similar to the person voicing them. Disney has again accomplished this feat in Wreck-It Ralph with the four central characters each bearing a striking resemblance to the actors. King Candy doesn't look much like his voice actor, Alan Tudyk, but if you look at him right, the resemblance is there if minimal, which is probably for the best. Tudyk just doesn't have the face of a narcissistic despot.

For children, a film like Wreck-It Ralph extols the virtues of embracing diversity and accepting even the most damaged individual as having value. Ralph has spent his entire life feared and hated, believed to be a monster, a villain only intent on destroying everything around him. He's a misunderstood softy who just wants to be loved like everyone else. Vannelope is childish and headstrong, but easily injured. She's bullied by other racers for being "Glitch," an imperfect human being. Felix is as soft-hearted as Ralph, but so focused on pleasing those around him that he forgets that others deserve his friendship and assistance. Sargeant Calhoun may be the toughest fighter in "Hero's Call," but her own life is damaged from tragedy and her inability to open up and accept new interests threaten her enduring happiness. While some of these stories are a bit more adult-oriented than others, they nevertheless provide admirable lessons about never letting bullies prevent you from finding joy and friendship, even if that companionship is found in an unexpected package.

As for adults, anyone whose spent decades playing video games will recognize one reference after another from Mario's nemesis Bowser to Pac-Man and his colorful ghost cohorts. References to modern games (like Call of Duty) and old console adventures (like Q-Bert) will please the '80s kids who grew up on these devices and are not of an age to take their children to the movies. Wreck-It Ralph should have little problem providing pleasure of any range of viewers, though older demographics might not get as many references as the younger ones, but even the kids going into it might not recognize the commonalities between Fix-It Felix and Donkey Kong, so there can be learning and sharing experiences for all ages.
Oscar Prospects
Potentials: Animated Feature, Sound Editing
Review Written
November 14, 2012

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