Sunday, November 25, 2012

Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

Seen: In 2D at the AMC/Loews at Boston Common.

Wreck-It Ralph reveals the world of arcade games as a vibrant, inter-connected community once the players leave the building. Behind the scenes, everyone is settled into their assigned roles- typically good guys, bad guys, and victims. Ralph, a Donkey Kong-esque villain in the game "Fix-It Felix, Jr", is tired of being ostracized from everyone just because he's naturally good at wrecking things. So, he sets off to win a medal to prove to his game-mates that he can be a hero and earn their respect (and cake). His presence in the intense Halo-esque "Hero's Duty" leads to some issues, but his troubles really begin when he crash-lands accidentally in the candy-colored racing game "Sugar Rush". There he reluctantly teams up with a bratty "glitch" called Vanellope in order to gain his medal and maybe JUST MAYBE win some friendships.

So this piqued my interest, as I'm sure it did many in my age/taste bracket, for its promise of recognizable video game characters being used in a funny narrative setting. That bad guy therapy session in the trailer is all a lot of us needed to draw us in to this movie. And while I know some people are disappointed that this isn't really what happened (the real-life gaming characters are there, but more as short cameos), I loved the new games and characters that were created for the film. The three games where most of the action takes place are all recognizable archetypes with fun worlds and characters that are comfortably familiar but not derivative. The detail in the animation is wonderful, especially the movements of different characters- the jerky motions of the Fix-It Felix denizens had me giggling every time and I loved the erratically floating Pacman ghost. The designs are lovely, from the super-saturated, super-cutesy candy land of Sugar Rush to the dreary, insect-alien-riddled planet of Hero's Duty. And the latter also features the wonderfully forthright and completely badass Calhoun (voiced perfectly by Jane Lynch), who just generally made me happy with her tragic backstory and ridiculous namecalling. I didn't even completely mind her romantic subplot (she is a dynamite gal, after all).

Story-wise the film is a little uneven, mainly because it changes in purpose and tone once Ralph gets to Sugar Rush, which I think is about half-way through. I loved that world and its sneering characters and weird diabolical king (Alan Tudyk!) and happy colors, and I liked Vanellope's plotline a lot, it was just a bit of a sudden shift for the film, almost like they had two stories they wanted to tell and couldn't quite find a way to combine them believably. Her story could have been a movie in itself, actually. It's a minor criticism I guess, since overall I had a lot of fun with Wreck-It Ralph. The humor is goofy (puns galore!) and nicely referential without relying on that as its point, and while it's aimed at younger kids I can't say I wasn't into it. And, doggonit, it's got a cute central friendship and a sweet message.


Pair This Movie With: Well the whole idea of seemingly inanimate things coming to life and having their own secret society when humans aren't around is of course reminiscent of Toy Story, which is also about friendship and stuff.