One would think that Wreck it Ralph would be the perfect movie for me. Released in 2012, it’s a movie about video game characters in an arcade, interacting after hours within their power grid. The idea is that the video game characters are conscious, similar to the toys in Toy Story, and they’ve all got personalities, emotions and desires of their own. In addition to the fully original characters that star in the movie, there are also some appearances from classic video game characters like Bowser from Mario, Q’bert, Zangief from Street Fighter, Clyde (one of the ghosts from Pac Man) and more.
I’ve been into video games since I was about 7, and I’m pretty sure I got my first system (the original Nintendo Game Boy) for Christmas when I was 8. I still have that Game Boy, and it still works too. The screen has badly faded, but that’s fixable. I’m also an on and off casual video game collector. Kind of off right now for space purposes. There was one particular year when I finished an average of at least one new game for the first time every week. Within that year, I finished both Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2 for the first time in 6 days. Those aren’t short games in case you weren’t aware.
My gaming has since cooled to the point where I can go entire weeks and barely play anything, but I’ll always enjoy video games, both classic and new. So when I first heard this movie was coming out, I was excited. Yet somehow I didn’t see it when it first released. It wasn’t until 2013, when I signed up for the Disney Movie club, when I finally picked up this movie. I got both this and Tangled, plus 3 other movies that I can’t quite remember, for $1 each. I watched this movie second of the two, and I never watched it since, until now.
Full disclosure, something’s wrong with my DVD copy that rendered a couple scenes unwatchable, whether it’s severe skipping, or the video and audio going out of synch. It looks like it’s oxidizing, or suffering from disk rot if you prefer, which’ll make it completely unreadable sooner or later. It didn’t affect my enjoyment of the movie all that much either way, but it’s still worth mentioning.
The concept for Wreck It Ralph first began in the late 1980’s under the title, High Score, back when video game arcades were as popular as ever. It went through several iterations over the years, changing titles to Joe Jump and Reboot Ralph. As the production started moving along, they wrote a bunch of original characters in case they couldn’t get the rights to all the different real video game character appearances. Most of the video game characters showing up in the movie are villains, as part of a villain support group. Nintendo was very supportive of including Bowser early on, but wanted Mario to appear as well if possible. Although they couldn’t figure out the right place to put Mario in the story, they did reference him a couple of times.
The movie stars Ralph, the villain in an arcade game called Fix It Felix Jr. He’s feeling increasingly lonely in his villain life, rejected by most of the supporting characters in his own game and living in a pile of junk. Even outside of his own arcade, most video game characters are terrified of him. Fix It Felix is sympathetic to Ralph’s rough life, but the rest of the Fix It Felix Jr. characters completely despise him. Hoping to earn their respect, he heads into several other video games trying to win a good guy medal.
The main concept for the story is great, and Ralph himself is a strong main character. His motivations are clear, he’s got a likeable personality, and despite his programmed role as the villain, he’s a nice guy. He’s got a bit of a temper at times, but you can fully understand why considering his code and the way he’s treated. Fix It Felix Jr. is also a great character. He tries to see Ralph as a friend, clearly shows sympathy to the social outcast, and chases Ralph after he disappears.
The first game he heads into is a newer shooting game, Hero’s Duty. It’s a shooter where the players are fighting these aliens and trying to get to their breeding ground. After panicking during a play session and causing the player to die, Ralph sneaks forward to the game’s finale after everything resets and acquires his medal. He accidentally breaks one of the alien eggs, and in the resulting chaos, he’s somehow transported to Sugar Rush, a bright and colourful racing game. Up to this point I enjoyed this movie.
Sugar Rush is unfortunately where the movie starts to fall apart for me. It introduces Vanellope von Schweetz, voiced by comedian Sarah Silverman. At this point the movie kind of turns into the Silverman show, very much relying on her style of comedy. Normally I can take or leave Silverman, but her character is kind of annoying here. She’s not all that funny to me and she never shuts up. Because I found her slightly annoying, I didn’t care much for her own dramatic moments that are otherwise well done. As a glitch in her own game, Vanellope is an outcast from the other racers, and the two characters connect on a fairly deep level. Unfortunately one of the Hero’s Duty aliens somehow arrived in Candy Crush along with Ralph, and it turns into an apocalyptic situation.
I won’t spoil the rest of the story in case you haven’t watched Wreck It Ralph and you’re thinking of doing so. There is a lot to like about the movie. The animation is brilliant, with a mix of smoother, human-like movements and faster, rougher animations matching that of 80’s arcade games. The music always matches the tone of the video game you’re currently in, whether it’s the classic feel of Wreck It Ralph, the dark and intense Hero’s Duty, or the over the top colourful world of Sugar Rush. It almost feels like a DreamWorks movie in some ways, with a couple pop songs sprinkled into the soundtrack. The pop songs work for their moments, like Rhianna’s “Shut Up And Drive” while Ralph teaches Vanellope to drive.
Wreck It Ralph is a great lead character and you feel his internal struggles. You fully understand why he wants to explore the other games, trying to improve his own life in Wreck It Ralph. That said, how much you enjoy this movie very much depends on whether you like Sarah Silverman or not. If you’re not a fan like I’m not a fan, you’ll probably find the character annoying enough to ruin the movie’s potential. If you actively dislike her, than you might even hate this movie. It’s also disappointing that the movie advertised all these video game cameos, but they only show up in a couple scenes at most. Also, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that Bowser only showed up in one arcade game, and that would be Mario Kart GT (Based on Mario Kart Double Dash for the GameCube). Donkey Kong was Mario’s classic arcade game villain, and back then he was called Jumper Man.
Wreck It Ralph was successful both commercially and critically, earning $471 million on a $165 million budget. It’s Rotten Tomatoes score of 86% was the third highest of the century for Disney Animation Studios up to that point, only behind Tangled’s 89% and Winnie the Pooh’s 90%. It was also the second highest grossing movie for the studio since The Lion King, behind only Tangled. It’s one of two movies that are getting theatrically released sequels in the next few years, with Ralph Breaks The Internet planned for release next fall.
Personally I don’t care much for this movie, and I don’t even mind that my $1 DVD is rotting. I don’t see myself watching it again any time soon. All criticisms aside, it is probably the best video game movie in existence, even if that’s not saying much. It is worth a look for gamers. That is if you don’t dislike Sarah Silverman’s comedy.
There are only four movies left to cover, and I’ve seen half of them. Next up is Frozen, which is the most profitable animated movie to date, and a pop culture monster the same way that The Lion King was in the 90’s. After that, there’s Big Hero 6, loosely based on an obscure Marvel comic, Zootopia, and Moana (the other movie I’ve previously seen).