Movie Review: Wreck-It Ralph
Director: Rich Moore
Reviewed: 17 March 2013
Together, the monsters and villains recite the pledge: "I'm bad, and that's good. I will never be good, and that's not bad. There's no one I'd rather be then me." No scene in "Wreck-It Ralph" is as much fun as the Bad Guys Anonymous Meeting that opens the film. In a daring display that builds off of the "Finding Nemo" sharks who state "Fish are friends, not food!" an assortment of zombies, ghosts from Pac-Man, pirates, and more sit in a circle and talk about their feelings. Ralph, a nine-foot tall crusher from a Donkey Kong-type video game, enters the meeting with his flame-red hair and wounded ego: "I don't wanna be the bad guy anymore."
"Wreck-It Ralph" chronicles Ralph's journey to another video game and to another life as he breaks free of the repetition and stereotyping of his own game. Marvelously voiced by a very game John C Reilly, Ralph travels via the power cord at the arcade to a Grand Central Station of video gaming and tries to insert himself into other games and other worlds. After disastrously disrupting a Halo-type game, Ralph travels to a candy-colored race car game, something akin to MarioKart, and there he meets tiny, punchy, glitchy Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) who is outcast like him. Together, they must scheme a way for Vanellope to enter the racing game and win it, since the upheaval that will create will alter the game's code which could possibly change everything (I think).
An existential crisis from a video game character. The ability for video game characters to cross over and know each other. The critique of the new games by the older ones. The search for agency. All promising ideas for a children's movie. There are some incredible visuals and colors in this film. My struggle with it involved the shift to autopilot when they arrived in Vanellope's candy-colored world; the world and its rules did not engage me, and I was disappointed that the director chose to set the bulk of the story there. I think the central relationship between Ralph and Vanellope grated on me and did not ultimately work. Some not so subtle product placement anchors the final scenes, and the wit disappears as the visuals and racing take over. "Wreck-It Ralph" suffers from a lack of a great villain, though the always sunny Felix (Jack McBrayer), Ralph's counterpart in his own game, offers some laughs in his inability to stop fixing things and an improbable love story with a military commander.
I still want a movie like "Wreck-It Ralph" where the characters from my beloved childhood video games all know each other. Where the heroes from Mega-Man interact with those of Contra. Where Super Mario Brothers meet up with Link from The Legend of Zelda. Where Q-Bert and Frogger and Dr. Mario all meet up. For a few moments, "Wreck-It Ralph" offers a window into the marvelous possibilities of "What if?"