Similar to what “Toy Story” did with toys, “Wreck-It Ralph” envisions a world where video game characters are actually alive, and free themselves from their game programing each night once the arcade closes. Free to visit other games and do things outside of their structured routines, the characters often demonstrate personality that exceeds their given scripts.
When the villain of the game “Fix-It Felix” chafes at being ostracized from the celebration of the game’s 30th anniversary, he sets out on a quest to prove he can be a hero, too.
The result is a fun, funny, family-friendly film that demonstrates the value of challenging the labels that world puts on you.
Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) is the demolition minded antagonist of the video game Fix-It Felix. While the hero of the game, Felix (Jack McBrayer), gets the medals and the adulation from the residents of the building Ralph has to wreck every day, Ralph is forced to sleep in a rubble pile at the dump, alone. On the 30th anniversary of the game, Ralph feels a little left out. After all, he’s a part of the game, too. A major part! After a Bad Guys Anonymous meeting offers him no solace, Ralph decides to show up at the anniversary party uninvited… unfortunately to disastrous results.
So Ralph abandons his post and heads through the surge protector to other video games in search of a medal to prove his worth to the other characters of Fix-It Felix His first stop is the first-person shooter Hero’s Duty, where he finds himself unprepared for the fast paced ultra violence of modern video games. His next stop, the kid friendly go-cart racer Sugar Rush, at first seems much more manageable, but in reality will test his mettle most of all.
It’s there he meets Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), a little girl racing character who is considered a “glitch” by the other characters of the game. Like Ralph, she’s an outcast. While initially she intentionally irritates him, it’s not long before they realize their common social stigma, and band together to help her win the Sugar Rush nightly race. Vanellope will fulfill her dream of being recognized by the other racers, and Ralph can get his medal to return to his own game a hero.
Standing in their way is King Candy (Alan Tudyk), who presides over Sugar Rush and fears the effect a glitch winning the race might have on the game. Also, unbeknownst to him, Ralph brought a virus into the Sugar Rush world from Hero’s Duty. And on top of it all, the clock is ticking. The arcade manager has discovered that the Fix-It Felix game has begun to malfunction, and is calling in a repairman to see if it needs to be shut down for good.
“Wreck-It Ralph” is a humorous, inventive animated action/comedy. It takes its premise, establishes the hero’s current state of woe, expertly sets the rules of its colorful world, and then lets the solid story unfold.
The characters are probably the biggest talking point, though. By investing so much time setting up the plight of the hero, “Ralph” comes across as having a lot of heart. Its lovable lug of a main character is easy to feel for. The combination of the repetitive nature of his wrecking role and the rejection he experiences from his game-mates makes Ralph a highly sympathetic protagonist. In Silverman’s Vanellope, the movie offers an atypical “cute kid” character. She’s a smart Alec most of the time, and certainly a “cute as a button”, mildly hyperactive kid character at others, but she’s also vulnerable due to the differences she experiences because of her faulty programming. Together, the two of them make for a fun, offbeat tandem. He’s the burly but no longer wishing to be brooding brute, and she’s the whippersnapper with a touch of sadness to her. Toss in a fun, militaristic turn from Jane Lynch, and an aw-shucks do-gooder Fix-It Felix courtesy of Jack McBrayer, and you have a great mix of animated heroes and heroines, with voices provided solid playbill of actors.
The plot here is really very well done. We all want to see Ralph get his medal, and his travels through different games with different rules allow for easy, natural action set ups. The video game world setting is a perfect excuse for imaginative environments, characters, vehicles and gadgets. The film spends most of its time in Sugar Rush, which is a virtual “Candy Land” full of bright candy cane trees, nestle quick quicksand, and random pools of chocolate. It’s the perfect place for an animated film to cut loose and show what it can create onscreen.
It would be easy for “Wreck-It Ralph” to be heavy-handed with its lessons of “be who you want to be”, given the program challenging set-up, but instead it opts to keep the preaching to a minimum and let the outcomes of the events impart the desired message. There’s a part of me that wishes it had explored its exestential potential a little more fully – “Kid’s Films” with rich, intellectual themes are a rarity indeed – but I can’t say that I was let down. “Ralph” isn’t just a sight and sound experience to kill an hour, it will also touch hearts and teach the children in the audience something about believing in themselves, standing up to society, and being kind to others. All without hitting them over the head about it.
The great characters, amazing setting, solid plot and excellent “message” make “Wreck-It Ralph” a great movie, and a front-running candidate for the best animated film of the year.