Wreck-It Ralph

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.



44 thoughts on “Wreck-It Ralph

  1. I was quite as outspoken about this one as you were, but I definitely think it’s up there with the best animated movies of this year. I like that you noted the similarities with Toy Story, Wreck-It Ralph definitely owes a lot to those movies in its premise but it never felt like a total rip-off. If anything by biggest gripes would be how lazy the writers got with some of the Candy-related puns, and maybe Sarah Silverman’s voice but other than that it was a lot of fun

    • You know what’s funny? I LIKE Silverman here, and usually I find her a little obnoxious. Whereas I think for most people, that might be reversed. I dont know. 😀

      “Best Animated” is WIDE open this year. Brave isn’t a slam dunk, and I dont think this is either. Personally, this bests that, but this could be the year for one of those unheralded foreign films to take the category.

      LOL!!! Who am I kidding. Disney will buy it outright LOL 😀

  2. I’m in no way in love with WRECK-IT RALPH (and I do feel the film’s final message of accepting yourself is a bit strange), it’s probably the best animated film of the year.

    That said, it has been a dismal year for animation cinema.

    Good review Dan.

    • I dont know if I’d go as far as “Dismal” per se, but it definitely hasnt been great. Ralph isn’t an all time great or anything, and yet its probably the best of the bunch….

      I dont know that the theme was a… surrendering acceptance of yourself Sam. Ralph fought pretty hard against the perception of himself, and in the end was able to demonstrate who he was. Vanellope was never unhappy with anything aside from being a glitch… once that was cleared up she was good to go! I saw it more like a dont let others tell you what to think of yourself message. 😀

  3. Wow, I can actually comment on FMR having seen the movie!! Great review, Fogs. The boys and I really enjoyed this one. There were a couple times that I was probably the laughing the loudest in the theater (the combination to King Candy’s vault had me rolling!) Alot of very subtle tributes to retro games that I enjoyed and typical laughs for the young kids.
    Was a little surprised by the amount of language that was essentially dumbed-down swear word phrases. I expected some from the Jane Lynch character but the exchanges between Ralph and Vanellope were a little over the top at times too. Found myself saying more than once “hope the boys don’t remember that or mama will not be happy!”
    Thoroughly enjoyed it though and deserves all the praise it has been getting.

    • Yeah, a lot of nods to Gamers and movie fans (The Vader breathing and the Wizard of Oz monkeys “Oreo, Or-e-o…” were great)

      Stuff like the quasi swear words inappropraite for kids would go right by me. LOL. Wouldnt even cross my mind. 😀 So… thanks for the 411 in that regard, Jay

  4. Hey Fogs, I’m glad you liked this one as much as I did. I could tell it would be one I wouldn’t dread sitting through, but it was soo much better than expected. I laughed, got choked up, and the message was one you can’t hear too often, and not heavy-handed at all. (The 9 and 10 year old both enjoyed it a lot too.) The spoof of Mario Kart via the Sugar Rush landscape was great, and the way it all came together met the high expectations set up in the beginning.

    My main problem with certain animated films is that they take too long to tell their story or wind up something convoluted and become seriously boring – Hotel Transylvania and Hop are two that come to mind. I know the kids feel it too. Wreck-it Ralph though was very well paced and understood kids’ love of gaming in all its obsessive facets. Also loved that Ed Wynn imitation from King Candy too (Mad Hatter guy from Alice in Wonderland) and the cameo appearances. Solid fun, a treat!

    • Oh God, Hotel Transylvania and Hop. We cant let THOSE two represent 😀 Theyre some of the worst offerings in the genre!!

      This was a treat (no candy pun intended) . I enjoyed all the cameos and pop culture references too. I should have given them points in my review (DAMMIT!! lol) 😀 Kudos to Ralp that it had so much going on that I didnt feel the need to. Glad you agree that they didnt lay it on too thick message wise, and that your kids enjoyed it. Good to know how the target audience is taking to it! 😀

      • LOL. I still bear the scars from Gnomeo and Juliet. There should be a support group for survivors of that experience.
        BTW we’ve all been referencing Toy Story and its premise imitators but I think we might be forgetting another wonderful example of this kind that kids and adults can both appreciate: Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

  5. Boy do we agree on this one. Saw it with Chris and family and we all loved it. Lots of good laughs. After the sandwich cookie bit, I was still chuckling at that through the rest of the film. I see this winning the Oscar and will certainly be on my best of list.

    • It very well could take home the gold this year. I think it has the edge over Brave in my book. I’ll have to see if it makes my top ten or not. I liked it a lot, but there are so many potential awesome live action films left to go… He stands a solid chance though. 😀

      Glad you’re a fan of this one, too, Al!

  6. I liked this movie. I’m a gamer and have played so many games in the arcade it isn’t funny. The Tapper reference I found hilarious. I used to play that game all the time. The humor was spread throughout and there was some stomach churning play on words. Everybody above mentioned a lot of what I would’ve said.

    My kids liked it. We were laughing consistently through the movie. I thought the Mentos and Diet Coke volcano was funny. The Devil Dogs was probably the first real stomach churner for me.

    • LOVE me some Tapper. I used to play back in the day when that dude was still serving beer!! 😀

      I didnt have too much problem with the word play, although I understand how parents might be attuned differently than I am.

      Definitely WAS a treat for old school gamers though, wasn’t it? From the Contra code to Qbert to Zangief, this movie was chock full of treats for the ex- Arcade crowd. 😀

      • I liked the puns but that’s what puns are for, groaning and stomach churning.

        I do love how they did it. With the old school graphics mixed with the modern high-def. These people really did their research on the old school games. I did like how the people moved in the Fix It Felix game. Even when it wasn’t in “game mode” they still moved in that same jerky style.

  7. Looking forward to checking it out!! I’m glad it is decent. So often, the previews look reasonably cute, but the actual movie is terrible – LIke Hotel Transylvania for instance…

    • Ahhhhh I wouldnt worry about that here Lyn. Honestly? This one delivered. The trailers were great, here, yes, but then the movie behind it is a winner too. 😀 When you get to see it, you’ll see. I’m betting you really like it.

  8. Glad to see this one nailed the landing as the saying goes! It has definately been a movie I wanted to cheer for. Good to see it as a top rate film! Nice Job!

  9. Not as high on it as all of you but I did like it a lot. Maybe being gamers you all are willing to let some of the storytelling problems go. The characters are inconsistent in the way they interact with each other outside of the working hours of the game. The justification for the “Sugar Rush” plotline is a bit weak. I loved the way that game is visualized however. A B+ for some of those minor flaws. The main character and the little girl were developed very nicely and paid off solidly.

    • I dont see any character issues, myself. I suppose they could have shored up the rationale behind bringing Ralph to Sugar Rush and why he helps Vannelope once he’s there, though.

      Still. I loved it. My gaming history probably played in, but I think its a great movie regardless.

  10. I LOVED IT!! In a time where it appears that originality has vanished from Hollywood, Disney gives us an clever, wildly imaginative and unique premise. On top of all the details (video game movements, surge protection, etc.) and funny cameos (and puns)–there is a human story.

    The theme that resonated with me was about finding your “home” and being part of a community. A place where you belonged. I thought how they addressed homelessness (unplugged games) was smart and added the extra depth that is sometimes missing in “kids” movies. It was all about finding yourself and therefore finding your place in the world. Well played.

    As I wrote my review, I was thinking of a title for the post and finally decided on Wreck-It Ralph is a new Disney classic! And I stand by that…


    • Hmmmmmmmmmm. New Disney classic….

      Uhhhhhhmmmmm…. Maybe? Let me stick with maybe right now. I guess I’m on the fence. I’d love to see a sequel, I enjoyed it very much, But I guess I’m leery of including it in amongst all of those great, iconic animated films just yet.

      Let’s not let that dampen my enthusiasm for it though. Definitely worthy of an “I LOVED IT!!” no doubt.

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  12. Saw this movie last Friday with my wife (not a big video game player) and my niece (sort of one, but a 7 year old so experience is limited). And there’s me, a big gamer. We all loved it. Wife was apprehensive about her 0 video game knowledge, but was rewarded by jokes about candies and cookies, which she loved. (She also found Zangeif hilarious, even though she hand no idea about the Street Fighter games). Our niece was thrilled with the fun action sequences. And, of course, I was having a blast trying to find the little Easter eggs everywhere. “Aerith Lives”! Princesses Peach and Daisy laughing with Chun-Li! That guy who’s not Kano! (Seriously, how is he not Kano?)

    What I respected most, though, is how the story was highly intelligent. There was a craft to worldbuilding there that sometimes seemed like they wouldn’t pay off, but in the end, everything did. I especially love the fantastic plot development where SPOILERS! Ralph does get his medal back before the end, but by that time it’s apparent that the medal quest doesn’t matter anymore. Any lesser movie would’ve had him getting the medal at the end. Wreck-It Ralph trusted its audience’s intelligence so much that it trusted that we knew that it wasn’t what mattered without spelling it out.

    A fun, fun, fun movie. One I can’t wait to see again.

    Favorite part, by the way: M. Bison early on going, “You’re not going TURBO, are you Ralph?” I don’t know why… maybe because I’ve always found M. Bison to be one of the most hilarious villains in video games. I mean, the guy has PSYCHO POWERS! The statement, which was plot crucial, was totally something that M. Bison would say. 🙂

    • Nicely put, all the way around. I agree with you that the script trusted the audience, it also didnt have to “force home” their themes of indentity and individuality… the movie just showed them and let the audience infer what they will. So many movies will outright come out and say what they want to express, which is obviously less artful.

      There were little treats everywhere, weren’t there? I liked seeing all the Dig Dug characters walking around, thought that was great. 😀 That definitely did sound like something Bison would say, too.

  13. I’m really champing at the bit to see this one… I know I was initially skeptical when it was first announced, but it’s really looking like a lot of fun. Glad to see you’re scoring it so high.

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