WRECK-IT RALPH Review

Look at Disney animation upping their game and pulling out all the guns for a full on challenge with their subsidiary Pixar. Whereas the former flourished in hand-drawn animation for years and years (obviously) they haven't had as much luck with their transfer to full on computer animation. Though many would like to think projects such as Chicken Little, The Wild, or Meet the Robinsons (though I've heard good things about this one, but never seen it) are properties of Pixar as well, the fact is they are as much a Pixar production as Cinderella or The Fox and the Hound, they aren't. Lately though, beginning with Bolt and continuing on to Tangled, the Disney animation studio has shown they have a good amount of juice left in the tank. It all comes down to that concept, what hooks people? What is relevant and cool? What is an idea that, as a kid, you would have loved to think could really be true? Like Toy Story, Wreck-It-Ralph is about what happens after the kids are done playing (though to its credit it doesn't play up this angle) and the characters in these games have to go on with their lives. It is a great idea to play around with and where much of the charm comes from within the actual storytelling is in all the referencing and characterization of some recognizable folks that most of the audience will have played as one time or another in the past thirty years. As you can tell from the trailer the standard uplifting tale will be at the core of the story and the formulaic arc is nothing to be shocked at or hold against the film for that matter because the makers have surrounded it with such a great world and great characters to play in it. As I get older I find it increasingly hard to sit through animated films without them beginning to feel redundant, but you know it's a good one when you truly feel like a kid again.

Fix it Felix Jr. (Jack McBrayer) is celebrating his 30th
anniversary as a game in the arcade.
Sometimes the best thing about going into a movie where you have no idea where it could go is how much it surprises you. Now, this can also go the completely different direction and disappoint you massively, but I felt good about Wreck-It-Ralph from the beginning. And no matter if the broad idea was present in the previews I still didn't think about or anticipate what might happen next or how much that Sarah Silverman-voiced character might play into Ralph's evolution. Turns out that Ralph, who has been the villain of the game Fix-It-Felix for thirty years now has become tired of being overshadowed by the guy who gets all the prizes and the glory. The guy who is considered a hero simply because that was how he was programmed. Ralph is tired of being the bad even if this doesn't necessarily make him a "bad guy". The group therapy session is a stand out if not for the presence of several well known baddies for the pledge each of them makes that defines their acceptance of their roles and ultimately serves as a through line for the story and for Ralph to come out on the other side with a sense of purpose and appreciation from his peers. What was a real pleasure to see unfold though was how well paced the film was. Not only do we first get introduced to the wonderful world within which all these characters from the different games in the arcade exist but we then are thrown into the depths of different genres of games and meet the likes of Sgt. Calhoun, King Candy, and Vanellope von Schweetz. Creative bits like having game central station exist within a surge protector and how characters whose games have been unplugged are relegated to beggars in the station are both funny and observational in its humor. 

Ralph (John C. Reilly) helps Vanellope (Sarah Silverman)
achieve her dreams of being a real racer. 
The real accomplishment of a movie like this for me personally though was that, as a gamer I am more accustomed to the games of my childhood rather than what the gaming universe is today. I haven't played a game with an urge to want to beat a level or complete it since Crash Bandicoot on the PlayStation. After that I fell off the gaming wagon and my younger brothers play little more than sports games (though Batman Arkham City and Asylum slip through every now and then). Needless to say I was somewhat fearful I would miss out on many a references (and I likely did) but I am also hopeful enough to think that I could spot what were supposed to be references and laughed at them anyway. This is why the film will be successful no matter who is in the audience though. No matter if you haven't played a video game in years or if you play them everyday  there is something for you to pick up on here and will allow an indulgence in the worlds it creates that give off a sense of feeling comfortable in it, like a welcoming place that you wouldn't mind returning to over and over again (that wish will likely be fulfilled as well). It captures in every sense that Disney magic that has become something of mythical tone over their older films that some of the newer releases have been unable to bottle. Whether we are watching as Ralph and Vanellope's relationship blossom to provide each of them a self-confidence that reassures them they are fine just as they are or if we cut to Felix and Sgt. Calhoun rushing to save the day or King Candy threatening to tear apart their happy little world with a justifiable amount of evidence that he is only looking out for everyone's best interests. It is all wonderfully layered in its story, its voice work and animation. All around the feature is a treasure to experience.

And Ralph proves over and over again he is not really a
bad guy by doing good deeds such as helping out
the gameless Q*Bert fellas.
Speaking of the voice cast it should be noted that John C. Reilly as the titular Ralph gives a genuine performance that allows the audience to really connect with his reasoning for wanting more than anything to be accepted by his fellow castmates in his home game. He is relegated to the dump pile and is regarded even after the game shuts down as a bad guy who doesn't deserve their time of day. As if it his fault he was stuck with the job of wrecking their building every time someone puts in a quarter. It is understandable why the guy is a bit of a mess and Reilly who has that timber of an authentic man that is thankful for what he does receive in regard to blessings is perfect for giving the digital dude a real human voice. Silverman is exceptional as well giving Vanellope a sweet, sarcastic mouth that sounds like that of a seasoned comic but coated with the innocence that her exterior portrays. Others that lend good amounts of work are Jack McBrayer as Felix and Jane Lynch as the very Sue Sylvester-like Sgt. Calhoun that has been programmed as the leader of a squadron to defeat evil bugs in the game Heroes Duty (a joke they definitely get their mileage out of). I usually don't care for famous actors doing voice work as it most of the time takes you out of the movie more than it helps tell the story, but for the most part Ralph does a good job of avoiding this. Alan Tudyk though, who is an actor you would probably recognize if you were to see a picture but not his voice on screen delivers a loving tribute of sorts to Disney's Mad Hatter in the work he does as King Candy. The whole time I was trying to figure out who he reminded me of but I was also happy the king had his own personality, a real highlight of the film rather than becoming a generic Disney villain. It is the small things such as this that Wreck-It-Ralph wins you over and over again.