Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Now that the Atari and Nintendo generation are adults with kids of their own, it only seems appropriate that a film would come along like Wreck-It Ralph. It panders specifically to the 80s and 90s video-gamer but also to the modern-day gamer who wouldn’t know a Galaga from a Zaxxon if it walked up and hit them in their Asteroids. In fact, regardless of age, there is a good chance you will like Wreck-It Ralph. If you happen to have grown up during the video game boom of the 80s (like myself), you may love it.
At the same time, Wreck-It Ralph is a bit misleading. Sure, it features animated characters living in a virtual video game world. But this movie was more like a nostalgic trip into a candy store rather than an arcade. I’ll explain.
In Wreck-It Ralph, we are presented with a world where all video game characters are real. When the arcade closes and the lights go off, imagine Mario, Luigi and the boys traveling over to the bar-themed “Tappers” game to grab an after-hours virtual brew, while other characters call it a night.
The title character, Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) is a video-game bad guy in a Donkey Kong-style arcade game. The good guy in the game is Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer) and if you were to play this game, you would control Felix as he tries to save patrons from a building before Ralph is able to wreak havoc upon them. Needless to say, when the lights go off, Ralph is not very well-liked by Felix or those that he is trying to kill daily.
We see that there are bad-guy support groups that Ralph attends, to deal with his villainous stress. In this group, the avid gamer will recognize other baddies such as King Koopa, Clyde the Ghost from Pac-Man, or the Russian fighter Zangief from Street Fighter II.
Ralph simply wants more out of life, so he sets out to flip the script and become a hero. This leads him into a Halo-like first-person shooter where he meets Calhoun (Jane Lynch), ultimately ending up in a candy-themed racing game called “Sugar Rush.”
The entire film is imaginative, clever and enjoyable, but once Ralph enters Sugar Rush it feels like he never leaves. Most, if not all, of the inside video-game humor comes in the first 20 minutes as we establish the world Ralph lives in. Once inside Sugar Rush, everything becomes a bit predictable and cliché. There, Ralph meets the sweet Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) and a zany, candy-filled adventure ensues.
Much of the best humor in Wreck-It Ralph will be missed by the younger audience, who won’t recognize Q-Bert or Frogger. But the best family films include fun for adults as well as the kids. To that end, Wreck-It Ralph is solid family entertainment, even though it doesn’t contain many outright laughs. It’s more of a movie that has you saying “Ha!” when you recognize a clever pun or a forgotten video game character. Still, I can’t help but feel like the whole thing was a bit of a missed opportunity to revisit the vast universe of arcade and video game characters from years’ past. I mean, come on Disney, no mention of Tron???
What Wreck-It Ralph does, it does really well. I guess the gamer in me was just hoping for a little more.
Genre: Animated, Comedy, Family
Run Time: 1 hour 48 minutes, Rated PG
Starring (voice talent of): John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Sarah Silverman
Directed by Rich Moore (feature-film debut, director on TV’s The Simpsons, The Critic, Futurama, Drawn Together)
Opens locally on Friday, November 2nd, 2012
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