Bottom Line: Wreck-It Ralph will fix a smile across your face.
Directed by: Rich Moore
Wreck-It Ralph: John C. Reilly
Fix-It Felix: Jack McBrayer
Also Featuring the Voices of: Adam Carolla, Alan Tudyk, Dennis Haysbert, Jane Lynch, Sarah Silverman, Skylar Astin
Wreck-It Ralph is essentially Disney’s twenty-first century update to Back to the Future (1985). The ancient “when worlds collide” premise is taken with a grain of salt, blended with modern charm, peppered thoroughly with a curious twist, and shaken up to create a fun-filled family fantasy. What’s so splendid is that the film bears equal appeal to parents and kids. Of course, the modern Disney atmosphere will spin kids off the wall, but in all honesty, I can’t imagine any one parent, one who grew up with Sonic the Hedgehog and Pac-Man, not enjoying just as much a rejuvenating thrill. With this said, I’d deliberately write to the Academy if such a joy doesn’t earn a nomination for the Best Animated Feature Oscar.
The film is an ingenious adventure. Similar to the way Toy Story imagined toys to have minds of their own, Wreck-It Ralph gleefully crafts a tale in which video games aren’t just there for submission to a gamer and a joystick. There’s a lot of technicality integrated into the plot, as well, but it’s surprisingly accessible. Wreck-It Ralph is the “bad guy” in an arcade game called Fix-It Felix Jr. As a nostalgic reminder of Donkey Kong, the objective is for the gamer to have Felix (voiced by Jack McBrayer) mend a building with his hammer before Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) can demolish it with his bare fists. The game has been around for thirty whole years, and Ralph is still completely unappreciated. Every time the townspeople and Felix are out partying or taking a break, Ralph is ignored and left to sulk in his pile of bricks. So Ralph decides to try to make an impression on his neighbors, by wiring through to another arcade game and picking up an award. It’s not until Wreck-It Ralph has abandoned his longtime home, and the game has been declared “Out of Order”, that the citizens begin to chew on how hopeless their world is without him.
Wreck-It Ralph is a continuously satisfying fable. There’s a whimsical attitude in which the characters deal with their problems. Some of them, particularly Wreck-It Ralph, are scripted to the point at which its difficult not to commiserate with them, regardless that they only feature in arcade games. Of course, the film has a few flaws. The major, nearly unavoidable one is sadly what we have to expect from Disney nowadays. The “be yourself” message is relentless blatant from the very beginning. The conclusion is fine, but considering it’s not much more than a restatement of what was known before the problem occurred, there’s not much a point in the story itself, is there? Perhaps for young children who would have trouble sufficing without this message, there is. And in recent years, Disney has spat out a lot of animated films with that same message strewn with the least possible amount of subtlety. Off the top of my head, there’s Bolt, Meet the Robinsons, and Chicken Little. But if you weigh Wreck-It Ralph against those three flicks, it defines the term “family fun” most easily and wonderfully.
Postscript: Stay through the credits. The animation is great throughout the film, but that’s where it reaches its zenith.