Thursday, November 1, 2012

This Review of Wreck-It Ralph

Quick Review: Insert Coin as fast as possible. You need to see this movie.

Full Review: If, like me, you grew up in the arcade, feeding quarter after quarter to the likes of Donkey Kong, Q*Bert, Pac Man, Mario Brothers, and countless other arcade games, you are going to feel like this movie was made just for you. Wreck-It Ralph is a love letter to video games, arcades, and every bad guy who ever made you see the dreaded 'Game Over' screen. It also asks a very profound question: what if the bad guy doesn't want to be a bad guy anymore?

That's the premise of this film. Ralph is the villain in the arcade game Fix-It Felix Jr., which you can play right here. After thirty years of wrecking the place, he wants to be a hero for once and not be tossed out like garbage. Thus begins an amazing hero's quest as only a villain could take.

That premise right there sold me on this movie. Not just me, but also my inner eight-year old. That kid absolutely loves video games, and I knew he'd enjoy this movie. I brought him along with me to the screening so I could talk to him after it was over. As this is a film for all ages, I thought this review would be better from that perspective. This is why I've invited my inner eight year old, who I'm calling little Charlie, to help review this movie.

Me: So, little Charlie, what did you think about Wreck-It Ralph?

Charlie: It was so cool! I loved it! LOVED IT! LOVEDITLOVEDITLOVEDIT!

Me: Looks like you've gotten into the Halloween candy. Calm down, I want to talk about the movie. What did you like about it?

Charlie: I liked it when Ralph broke stuff.

Me: Yeah, that was part of his journey. He had to find out if he was more than just a guy who wrecks things. John C. Reilly really brought a lot of depth and humanity to the role. What did you think of the other characters?

Charlie: I want a hammer like Felix.

Me: Yes, Felix was also a great character, and Jack McBrayer gave him an endearing earnestness. What really impressed me were the characters of Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) and Calhoun (Jane Lynch). Not only are they great comic foils, but they have some real depth.

Charlie: They were funny!

Me: Yes, this move had a lot of great comedy. I thought it would be just video-game in-jokes, and those fly fast and furious, but there's also some great character moments as well. Everyone will be laughing hard in this movie. Did you like all the video game characters?

Charlie: I saw Sonic and Bowser and Q*Bert and Pac Man and M. Bison

Me: We certainly got the Who Framed Roger Rabbit treatment with all the classic video game characters running about.

Charlie: I wasn't finished!

Me: My apologies. Go on.

Charlie: And Ryu. OK, I'm done.

Me: Having authentic video game characters is what makes this movie work. You can buy into the Wreck-It Ralph universe when you see him rubbing shoulders with all the other baddies who tormented us over the years.

Charlie: I have to go to the bathroom.

Me: Now? You just went.

Charlie: I have to go again.

Me: Fine, I'll wait...while he's gone, I want to let you know that right before this move is an animated short called Paperman. It's a silent film with shades of Chaplain and Buster Keaton, and if it reminds you of a classic Pixar short, it's because John Lasseter produced it. Lasseter is also the producer of Wreck-It Ralph, which feels a lot like a Pixar movie.

Charlie: I'm back!

Me: Good, because I want to ask you about the 3D. Did you like seeing it in 3D?

Charlie: It was like, whoa, in my face! And then things blew up and Ralph hit things.

Me: I will say that while the 3D did add some depth to the movie, especially the large crowd shots, you won't miss it if you see this 2D. It looks amazing no matter what, especially all the different video game worlds.

Charlie: Can I go play video games?

Me: We're talking about the movie.

Charlie: But I'm bored. Can we go see Wreck-It Ralph again?

Me: I am definitely seeing this movie again. The game packs so many visual gags and subtle video game jokes that you won't catch them all the first time. Not only that, but the story is amazing from beginning to end. Not only do you love Ralph from his very first support group meeting, but you love all the characters. Who was your favorite character, Charlie?

Charlie: (snoring)

Me: Looks like he fell asleep. I mentioned John Lasseter earlier, and his influence is obvious in this film. The relationship between Ralph and Vanellope has shades of Sully and Boo from Monsters Inc., and I found myself very moved on more than one occasion.

The story, too, is absolutely incredible. The first half of the movie has so many small and large plot threads that it seems like they packed too much in there, but by the end of the film, everything comes together in a very satisfying way. While a few plot points may seem by-the-numbers, they are so well executed that you won't mind.

Where this film truly succeeds, though, is getting you to be so emotionally invested in the characters. While the video-game trappings are neat, the humor sharp, and the animation stellar, none of would matter if we didn't care about each of our four main protagonists. There is so much heart and humor that you'll be laughing as you fight back tears. It's not what you might expect in a movie about video game characters, so you might want to have a few tissues on hand and practice your "I'm suffering from allergies" excuse.

There's so much more I want to talk about, but I don't want to spoil a thing. See this movie as soon as possible, I guarantee you won't be disappointed. It's great for kids and adults, and I predict many of you will want to see it again and again.

Finally, if you are a video game geek, you'll want to stay to the very end for one last gag that only a gamer could appreciate.

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