Review: Wreck-It Ralph

Wreck-It Ralph, Walt Disney’s latest animated film based on video games is a few power-ups shy of a classic, but its winking look at the world of video games is fun, even if it doesn’t reach its full potential.

The movie easily could have been this nostalgic look at video games — it features cameos from from Street Fighter, Super Mario Bros. and Pac Man — but screenwriters Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston opt for a more traditional tale. A curious decision considering the material at their disposal.

Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) is the bad guy in his video game, Fix-It Felix Jr. — a la Donkey Kong. He wrecks a building only to be foiled repeatedly by Fix It Felix Jr. (Jack McBrayer, Forgetting Sarah Marshall). At the end of the day at the arcade, life isn’t much different for Ralph, whose massive frame and ill-timed bad temper scares people.

The playful animation style is appropriately goofy — the 8-bit characters move in a stop-motion like fashion compared to the more fluid movements of characters inspired by the current generation of video games. In a nice creative touch, characters interact via the surge protector system, which acts as a functional rail system.

Ralph finds some solace in therapy sessions with his fellow game bad guys, who encourage him that being bad is good, but he yearns for the same acceptance Felix enjoys and ditches his game to prove his heroism. The easiest way is to gain a medal in the arcade’s cutting-edge, modern shooter as a member of Sgt. Calhoun’s (Jane Lynch) military squad.

Ironically, the film slows down once Ralph loses his medal in Sugar Rush, a racing theme game. There he meets the intended edgy, but more irritating Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), an outcast banned to the outskirts by the game’s ruler, King Candy (Serenity’s Alan Tudyk in a fun performance). While Ralph tries to reclaim his medal, Felix teams with Calhoun to find his friend.

Ralph features one of the best animated voice casts ever assembled. The performers perfectly fit their characters even if the characters aren’t the greatest.

The filmmakers said they originally centered the film around Felix, but found Ralph the more interesting character. While Felix may be a bit one-dimensional, he’s much more likable because of that simple nature. Ralph, however, comes across like a poor man’s Shrek, the ogre who already cornered the market on grouchy, misunderstood animated characters. Felix and Calhoun’s scenes made the movie for me as it was very original in its blending of game genres.

I couldn’t help feeling like the filmmakers missed a great opportunity to go deeper with Ralph exploring more genres rather than going with a more familiar story. I liked it, but I would have loved it with a more expansive look at video games and greater emphasis on the supporting characters.

Rating: 6.5 out of 10

Photo Credit: ©2012 Disney. All Rights Reserved.