In this venture from Disney Animation (not Pixar, not Dreamworks), we follow the story of Wreck-It Ralph, a big (hearted) guy who is cast as the villain in an arcade game but wants, just for once, to be the hero. In a drastic move, he decides to go “Turbo” and leave his game, looking for a chance to be a hero.
We have John C. Reilly as the title character, supported by Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, and Jane Lynch.
Mostly everything. From start to finish, you can see all the details that went into this movie, that may take multiple viewings to even notice. The screen is littered with details such as shoutouts to other videogame franchises (such as seeing Ken and Ryu share a beer in the background) or even movements that echo how videogame characters move (watching little guys run without bending their knees is adorable).
Let’s start at the writing. The story is simple yet relateable. Who wouldn’t want to be the hero? Ralph is a loveable guy but can’t always fight his nature, as he often breaks things on-accident. Every day, Fix-It Felix defeats Ralph and gets a giant gold medal. All Ralph wants is to have a medal of his own, so he ventures off to a clone of Gears of War (Hero’s Duty) to get a medal. After that, things get crazy as Ralph ends up in a game called Sugar Rush, where he meets an adorable little girl named Vanellope. Their lives between forever intertwined.
I’m a sucker for moments that punch you in the gut. There are some animated movies that clearly target a younger audience and lack any sort of emotional depth. But there is some complexity in Wreck-It Ralph that I appreciate. Ralph is a loveable guy but he gets heartbroken and he breaks hearts and you can absolutely see some subtle subtext in his eyes. There are some moments that resonate feelings I’ve felt in films like Up and How to Train Your Dragon, which is a huge kudos to Disney Animation.
The voicework is stellar. John C. Reilly totally embodies Ralph and gives up his usual style of humor, instead playing the straight man to the film’s other exaggerated figures. Sarah Silverman is snide and witty but not in the same annoying way that I’ve seen her before (and why I was hesitant of her involvement). But here, it totally works. There’s also some great work by Alan Tudyk as King Candy, the head honcho of the game Sugar Rush. He comes off as a semi-Mad Hatter character but it’s completely different than his natural voice, as I didn’t realize it was even him until credits rolled.
And let’s talk visuals, which are important for any animated feature. The texture work is astounding and some of the water/liquid effects are the best I’ve seen in a long time. Each video game they travel to has a unique style and the contrast between the dark gritty very textured world of Hero’s Duty is starkly different than the smooth bright world of Sugar Rush. The visual team here clearly had a lot of fun and it definitely pays off with a polished and extremely detailed world.
What doesn’t work?
Not much. The humor is spot-on, mixing a balance of subtle with over-the-top puns. The visuals were crisp and bright, when they were supposed to be. The voice acting was recognizable but not in a way that took you out of the experience.
Wreck-It Ralph is one of the best films I’ve seen in 2012 so far and would please even those that don’t have experience with video games (though those that do will find a lot of little nods). The story is simple and compelling and pulls at your heartstrings in just the right way. What are you waiting for?