Review by Mike Gallagher
*Note From Editor Mark Pezzula: I’d like you to give a nice warm welcome to Mike Gallagher, who brings his first TEFS review to us this week with Wreck-It Ralph. Hopefully Mike will continue to write reviews for TEFS in the future, but if you’re looking to check out more of his work right now, click this link and enjoy!
It terms of an entertainment medium, video games are still relatively young when compared others such as movies or television. However, gaming has also seen many changes and advancements; from the 8-bit days of Pac-man to the super hit Street Fighter 2 all the way up to the shooter oriented gaming landscape we have today. Wreck-It Ralph seeks to pay homage to the changing world of video games while still giving us a great Disney style treat in the process.
Wreck-It Ralph follows the story of Ralph (John C. Reilly) who lives in a virtual world where video game characters are living beings who treat their roles in games like jobs and are free to interact with each other when the arcade closes. Ralph’s job is to live up to his name sake and wreck stuff in the game Fix-It Felix, while the hero, named Felix (obviously), fixes them. Ralph unfortunately is always treated like the bad guy, even when he tires hard to be nice to everyone. After 30 years of this, Ralph has had enough and he decides to prove himself the hero by game jumping, a forbidden act in his world, to win a medal from the hot new game, Hero‘s Duty (a reference to today‘s popular military games). This causes a whole slew of problems from glitches to a virus-like alien swarm that threatens the very existence of the arcade leaving Ralph to prove himself a hero and stop it.
The biggest draw Wreck-It Ralph provides for older viewers such as myself is it’s various references to video game history. Gamers will have a fun time getting to see their favorite characters hang out and interact with each other. Appearances include Pac-Man, Sonic the Hedgehog, my personal favorite, Zangief from the Street Fighter series, and much more. It’s the video game equivalent of Who Framed Roger Rabbit and was my favorite aspect of the film.
Wreck it Ralph also provide some of the best voice acting I’ve heard for an animated movie as each of the main characters feel like an extension of the actor providing the voice. John C. Reilly makes a perfect tough, but loveable, Ralph and Jack McBrayer’s role as Felix doesn’t feel too far off from his Emmy nominated character Kenneth Parcell of 30 Rock. But perhaps the best of the cast would be Jane Lynch as she shines forth in her role as the no nonsense space marine, Sergeant Calhoun. Calhoun, who teams up with Felix to find Ralph, seems to be a duplicate of Jane herself as she has the same cynical delivery she is known for and it doesn’t hurt that the two bare a resemblance to each other either.
The animation here is topnotch and it rivals the very best of Pixar. The characters are life like and fluid in their motions, with the notable exception of the older 8-bit arcade characters (who move with a jerky style – much like an 8-bit video game – a nice little added detail). The constant change in gaming worlds also gives us something new to look at and each is great in their own way. The dark and grim world of Hero’s Duty will bring to mind games like Halo or Call of Duty to mind, while the sweet and bright world of Sugar Rush, a Mario Kart style game that serves as the main setting of the film, reflects the more family oriented games you find on the Wii.
The plot of the film, while very good, dose have some faults to it. Despite the video game back drop, it is still a very much a Disney kid’s film. The plot is cute and colorful, but is very formulaic at times, especially at the film’s climax. There are a few predictable twists and turns that a careful viewer could figure out much early than the filmmakers may have wanted.
Wreck-It Ralph represents the changing attitude towards games as an entertainment medium. Much like film and even comics that have been taking over the silver screen lately, games have had some challenges to overcome to be fully accepted. We are now reaching a turning point in these challenges and are on the verge of seeing games reach the level of film in terms of artistic expression. The fact that the likes of Sonic, Q*Bert, and other classic gaming icons are included in a Disney movies is a testament to this. Much like Ralph fighting for social acceptance, games too are nearing the end of a journey for legitimacy and I for one am excited for the new possibilities that await.