There comes a time in almost every life where a person thinks something along the lines of "it hasn't been nearly long enough for people to feel nostalgic about...oh, I guess that was 30 years ago."
Wreck-It Ralph was such a watershed for me. Not just because many of the old video games inspiring it are around 30 years old but because many of the new games also inspiring it are themselves approaching school age.
Fortunately, Wreck-It Ralph is worth the psychoemotional trauma of realizing that Street Fighter 2 is older than half the audience. Wreck-It Ralph is like Toy Story in asking what our toys do when we aren't around. In this case, the toys are digital characters from the various games in an old arcade. They can all mingle by moving through power cords that are all plugged into a single surge protector.
Ralph (John C. Reilly) is the bad guy in a game called Fix-It Felix. Ralph does damage to buildings (very similar to Rampage) and then drops barrels (Donkey Kong) to prevent Fix-It Felix Jr. from repairing the damage. Once all of the kids go home, the characters all socialize, but the bad guys are still treated by bad guys. After 30 years of this, Ralph really wants to be treated like one of the crowd and decides to go off and win in another game, hoping to win the respect of his own locals.
© Walt Disney Pictures
On the way, he visits a modern first-person shooter called Hero's Duty, where he meets a high-def, tough-as-nails Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch, slinging insults almost as creative as on Glee) and then ends up in the Mario Kart-inspired Sugar Rush car racing game. Here we meet Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), a software "glitch" who wants to race just once—but for some reason, nobody will allow it.
Director Rich Ross, along with writers Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston, thread the needle nicely with a good blend of old-school video game references while keeping the story firmly rooted in a broader narrative that doesn't require understanding every reference in order to enjoy it. Seeing Q-Bert as a homeless character is a side gag and not the entire reason for the movie existing.
More than many non-Pixar animated films lately, it really is carried along by characters. Ralph's journey may not stray from old standards but you do end up caring about Ralph. Similarly, Sarah Silverman is not everybody's cup of tea as a comedian, but her bratty faux-innocence plays perfectly to Vanellope's charms. Alan Tudyk also turns in a surprising (and generally unrecognizable) performance as King Candy.
©Walt Disney Pictures
In the end, the standard morals about accepting yourself for who you are while simultaneously becoming the best person you can be are hit a little hard, presumably for the kids in the audience. By then, though, you'll likely be sufficiently into everything to go along with it.
A movie so perfect for the entire family may be perfectly timed to fill a relatively empty period in the calendar for family films. Wreck-It Ralph is well worth getting the clan out to the theater this weekend, even if it means you'll have to pick something else for your post-Thanksgiving entertainment in a few weeks.
Wreck-It Ralph is a Walt Disney Picture's release.
Wide theatrical release on Friday, November 2, 2012
Directed by Rich Moore
Starring: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Alan Tudyk, Jane Lynch
Running time: 108 minutes
Rated PG for some rude humor and mild action/violence
Alex's rating: 7 out of 10