Technically, ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ isn’t the opening film of the 2012 Philadelphia International Film Festival. David O. Russell’s new movie ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ was the chosen film to open this year’s festival. However when the opportunity came to see this film not only earlier, but at a closer location as well, the chance had to be taken. Bringing two friends of mine who happen to be big video game buffs added to the excitement for this film. Walking out of the film with them, we talked about comparisons to ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,’ another video game related movie. Then one of them said to us, “It actually reminded me a lot of ‘Toy Story.” That idea sparked in my mind really fast the moment that was uttered. ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ takes the jealousy aspect of ‘Toy Story’ and adds the video game nostalgia references of ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. The World,’ with dashes of ‘Tron‘ in there, as well a sprinkle of twists and clichés to go around. As a film fan and a video game lover, ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ may be the best animated movie of the year. It might not win the Oscar, but it still well deserves to be nominated.
For 30 years, Fix-It Felix Jr. has been a fairly popular game at a small arcade. Felix wins every day and is loved by all. Wreck-It Ralph, however, has the exact opposite lifestyle. He is a lonely guy who just wants to be loved for once, but can’t because he’s just known as a bad guy all the time. Ralph then gets influenced to go to other video games in the arcade to try to win a medal, which could place him on top with everyone else in the game rather than down in the mud. After a huge mishap in the latest war game Hero’s Duty, Ralph gets transported to Sugar Rush, a candy filled racing game. There he befriends a little “glitch” who isn’t desired to race in the game, despite her growing urge to do so. These two oddballs become friends, and both try to help each other get what they both want most in the world: love from their peers.
The voice work in this film is nothing short of stellar. John C. Reilly’s Ralph reminded me a bit of the lovable green ogre ‘Shrek.’ Sure he’s rough and lonely around the edges with a habit for destroying things, but deep inside he is such a sweet and lovable character that the audience can’t help but fall high over heels for him. Jack McBrayer of ’30 Rock’ fame was also great as Felix. What I liked so much about the character of Felix is that he is genuinely a nice person and doesn’t fully bask in the glory of himself, which leads to some very nice moments between him and Ralph in the third act. Sarah Silverman for me stole the show as Vanellope von Schweetz, a character in the game Sugar Rush with some secrets even she doesn’t know about.
Silverman’s portrayal of this character is just so sweet and lovable, while at the same time sarcastic and hysterically funny. I swear I wanted to give this character a huge hug while watching the movie because of how adorable she was. You know, a great big bear hug that one would get from an uncle or something after not seeing them for a while. Jane Lynch of ‘Glee‘ fame also gets some big laughs in there playing Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun, the lead character in Hero’s Duty. There are some great lines thrown out by her, as well as one of the funniest back-stories to a character I’ve seen in quite some time. Overall all of the film’s characters brought something great to the table and helped steer this film in the right direction. Speaking of the look of the characters, the animation was spectacular to look at.
From the green, futuristic world of Hero’s Duty to the lush, colorful world or Sugar Rush, the animation in this movie is stunning to watch. Not only does the animation look crisp and fresh, but it also looks like something we haven’t seen before, while still keeping that classic Disney look and feel. And the 3D did its job superbly as well. The 3D is meant to be subtle, so it would make sense that some wouldn’t care for it that much. To people like me, however, I observed a great sense of depth of field in the several games, and all of them just popped on the screen. Other than a couple of pop out moments, the overall use of 3D is just used for depth of field in the games and on the characters, and to me it looked great. Even if one doesn’t like the movie overall, they can at least say that the animation is great to look at. Since I hear people at the screening not care for the 3D a lot, the 3D will probably be a mixed bag.
The film was written by first time writer Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston, who wrote the 2011 indie ‘Cedar Rapids.’ It’s pretty easy to tell how big of video game and candy nerds these two are, because there are non-stop references from the ‘Street Fighter’ video games to Wonka’s Laffy Taffy. Not only that, but the film overall is well-written. Sure there are childish jokes here and there, plus the film goes on the typical “dramatic end of second act” cliché, but the film is saved from how clever and funny some of the situations are, and a twist that I don’t think anyone expected in the end. Hopefully these writers will get more work from Disney, because they really brought their game here.
It’s tough to find movies for the entire family to see, rather movies that everyone in the family will enjoy. ‘Ice Age: Continental Drift‘ might have been too childish for adults, and ‘ParaNorman‘ might have been too frightening to younger viewers. ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ has something for everyone, whether it’s a childish bathroom joke or the thrills of any video game you’ve ever played. The film is funny, well-written, heartfelt, and really intelligent. It might have the typical clichés that any kid’s movie has these days, but those criticisms can be dismissed because this movie, overall, rocks! Even the video game and candy brand references alone will make people chuckle quite a bit. Not everyone is going to love this film, but like ‘Scott Pilgrim’ this film will definitely gain a cult following in the future, which is so deserves. Overall, ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ is refreshing, fun, and my favorite animated movie of the year thus far.