Wreck-It Ralph Simultaneously Fresh, Retro
- Susan Ellingburg Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2012 11 Nov
DVD Release Date: March 5, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: November 2, 2012
Rating: PG (some rude humor and mild action/violence)
Genre: Animation, Comedy, Family
Run Time: 108 minutes
Director: Rich Moore
Cast: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch
Ralph (John C. Reilly, Chicago) is in the midst of what, if he were a real person, might be termed a mid-life crisis. On one hand, he has a steady job and he's very, very good at it. Problem is, Ralph, as a "wrecker," is by definition a bad guy—even though he’s not a "bad guy." Ralph lives in the video game Fix-It Felix, Jr. where Felix (Jack McBrayer, TV's 30 Rock) is the good guy hero.
And everybody loves a hero… so nobody loves Ralph. The poor guy just wants to be part of the Fix-It Felix, Jr. community—invited to parties, accepted as a co-worker—but they only see him as a menace. He even tries group therapy (led by one of the Pac-Man ghosts, no less), but it doesn’t help. Everyone wants him to accept his fate, but Ralph leans more towards free will than predestination. So when he hears about a new shooter game headed up by the tougher-than-nails Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch, TV's Glee) where the winner receives a medal, Ralph decides that shiny gold medallion is his ticket to popularity.
Unfortunately, Ralph’s destructive tendencies wreak unintended havoc and he ends up putting the entire arcade at risk. It will take the combined forces of unlikely new friends and old acquaintances to save the arcade before it’s "Game Over" for everyone. This being a Disney movie, it’s not exactly a spoiler to say that in the end, Ralph's blunders will lead to fixing more things, and more lives, than Ralph could have ever imagined.
Some have called Wreck-It Ralph a "love letter to video games," and it definitely appeals to the arcade crowd. At the showing I attended the loudest guffaws came from the young adult men in the audience who apparently caught several inside ‘gamer’ jokes that went over my head. Still, the beauty of this film is its broad-based appeal. Kids will love the fast action, underdog-makes-good storyline, and the peek inside the world of video games. Adults will enjoy revisiting the games of their youth and the cleverly realized universe the characters inhabit. The writing is extremely clever, especially the many pop culture references and groan-producing visual puns, which come as thick and fast as a cyberbug attack in Sergeant Calhoun's game. This is especially true in the candy-themed world; when the Oreos started singing I nearly fell out of my seat laughing (you’ll get why the instant you hear it).
In addition to the transformation of Ralph from bumbling bad guy to the humble hero he always was on the inside, the story introduces us to sassy wannabe heroine Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman, School for Scoundrels). Vanellope is an outcast in her candy-coated racing game, a "glitch" who was told she was "a mistake that was not supposed to exist" (and yet, she’s a major character who clearly has much to offer. Could that possibly be a subtle pro-life message from Disney?). Vanellope is a tough little optimist who's determined to become the person she believes she was meant to be. She may be a bit mouthy and rather over-fond of bathroom jokes, but her determination and can-do attitude are an inspiration.
The animation is as good as you’d expect from a Disney film and probably worth shelling out the extra cash for the 3D version; it makes the perspective from the other side of the video game screen that much more real. But do get there early. There’s a short before the main attraction that you won’t want to miss, a 2D animation called Paperman that is absolutely precious. It follows a chance encounter between a lonely young man and a lovely young woman in mid-century Manhattan… the audience cheered and applauded at its conclusion. It’s quite possibly the most romantic film I’ve seen all year.
- Drugs/Alcohol: There’s a video game set in a bar where characters go to drink, though the only order heard is for root beer. Characters seen drinking at a party, later a character mixes and drinks a martini.
- Language/Profanity: No profanity, but bathroom jokes and crude-but-creative name calling of the juvenile variety abound.
- Sex/Nudity: Sergeant Calhoun wears tight body armor, revealing a curvaceous figure only available in animation. Man and woman kiss. Some warrior characters wear very little clothing; character underwear discovered in bar’s lost & found.
- Violence: Video game violence: shooting, destruction, some fighting. Man gets eaten by giant bug. Said bugs attack more than once. Zombie character has his heart pulled out of his chest (as a demonstration; zombie isn’t hurt but it is fairly gross). Extremely unsafe driving practices during racing scenes.
- Spiritual Themes: One of the bad guys is a devil figure named “Satan” (though he prefers a different pronunciation) but he only has a walk-on part. Characters espouse the defeatist notion that they can’t change who they are, they just have to live the way they always have. Vanellope was told she’s a mistake who wasn’t supposed to live; since she’s a sympathetic character this could be construed as a pro-life message. Mean girls and bullying provide teachable moments, as does the unintentional cruelty of game members toward a character who’s not like them.
Publication date: November 2, 2012