With Pixar dipping in quality and upping in quantity (we’re supposedly going to start getting two or more Pixar movies each year starting next year), Disney is upping the ante and filling the slot as the number-one maker of animated kids movies – at least it seems that’s what they’re going for after Wreck-It Ralph. Tangled proved that they’re willing to step it up and Wreck-It Ralph follows with a new high score.
The lead character in Wreck-It is titular Ralph, the villain in “Fix-It Felix Jr.,” an ’80s arcade game similar to “Donkey Kong” in the way that the majority of the screen is consumed in a two-dimensional building face. Ralph is the “bad guy” who leaves his home in the local dump and slowly tears down the building. With the tenants fearing for their lives, Felix Jr. and his magical hammer must repair the building without getting hit (too many times) by Ralph’s debris. When Felix gets to the top of the building, he and the citizens throw Ralph over the side into a puddle of mud – but when the arcade closes, like the toys in Toy Story, each of the characters stops playing the in-game character and comes to life inside the world of the game. At the end of each day, Felix and friends celebrate another day of winning – but Ralph has nothing to celebrate and no one to not celebrate with.
Because all of the games are plugged into various power strips in the arcade, when operating hours are over, many of the characters head to a central location in the power grid where they can enter the worlds of other games for an escape. When told that he would be accepted by Felix and the citizens of “Fix-It Felix Jr.” if he could earn medals like Felix, Ralph ditches his game and looks for accolades elsewhere – all for the sake of acceptance and overcoming loneliness. The results of abandoning your game are deadly, so Ralph had better achieve his mission quickly, for the fate of “Fix-It Felix” and its inhabitants is in his hands. Of course, while game-hopping, Ralph wrecks a few other things that ultimately affect the world of more games than just his own.
Wreck-It Ralph has everything: a solid story, a witty and hilarious script, fun characters and a genuine heart. The story is simple enough for children of all ages to follow, yet smart enough that adults won’t pick up on where it’s going. There’s a great amount of ’80s nostalgia in the first act that creates additional entertainment value for those who were around to experience it firsthand – but the film doesn’t bank solely on that and those same adults aren’t going to be disappointed by the other two-thirds that follow. The characters are really what make Wreck-It Ralph worthwhile. Had it not been for the great vocal cast – consisting of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk, Mindy Kaling, Joe Lo Truglio, Ed O’Neill and Adam Carolla – they wouldn’t be nearly as lovable as they are. Please note that I used the word “lovable” and not “likable” because you literally fall in love with these characters. One kid sitting a few seats down from my daughter and I during our Wreck-It screening literally started crying during a particularly emotional scene. I’ve never seen a child get so worked up because “it’s so sad” (her words, not mine), but it’s a testament of how solid this content is. When kids can connect with and be moved by the characters in a story, then you know you’re watching something special.
Unless DreamWorks’ upcoming Legend of the Guardians is stellar, I’ve already got my Best Animated Picture pick. With this being the last weekend prior to the presidential election, I feel it’s a worthy time to say, “Vote for Ralph.”
Photo credit: Buena Vista