Saturday, November 17, 2012

Wreck it Ralph review; A fun, nostalgic look a video games past

I know I'm a few weeks late with this review; but life has been busy since I saw this film.  Let me begin with a short trip down memory lane.  I remember seeing Toy Story for the first time, and thinking to myself, 'where was this movie when I was a kid?"  I mean, Disney Pixar made every kid wonder, what toys do when we're not around.  That was 1995, in 2012, Disney has us asking a different question; what do video game characters do when we're not around?  That question is answered in Wreck it Ralph.  The animated film is directed by Rich Moore and stars the voice talent of John C. Reily, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch.  Let's go!

What I liked about the film:
The Premise
As I mentioned above, the film has an incredible premise that begs the question... What do video game characters do when we're not around?  Much like Toy Story asked.  It's such a simple premise that has infinite possibilities.  Now throw in a dash of Despicable Me, where a villain may not be such a bad guy.  And boom, you've got Wreck it Ralph.  Ralph is the villain in a vintage video game, and he really doesn't like being the bad guy.  So he begins a fun filled adventure to change the way people view him.  Sweet, simple, and again, infinite possibilities.

The Video Game World
I'm not necessarily raving about the animation, which is wonderful by the way; what I'm more impressed with is the way the filmmakers created a world where multiple video games coexist.  To achieve this shared universe, the writers created a 'Game Central Station'.  Sort of a made up train station where all the video game characters cross paths.  It's so clever and is a very integral part of the story.  There is a great scene where Ralph wonders into a first-person shooter game and makes the comment, "When did video games get so violent? It's scary out here!"  It was very cool to see all the characters I've played on the small screen, up on the big screen together.

Also a treat, the animation of each character reflects the time in which their video games existed.  Ralph and other older characters look and move differently than those characters in today's video games.  The sound design is also very clever, with sound effects and themes we can't help but remember from years ago.

The Voice Talent
John C. Reily can seriously do it all.  He's done great comedy films (Step Brothers), and he's even been nominated for an Academy Award (Chicago).  This may surprise you though, because Reily has such a recognizable voice, Wreck it Ralph is the actor's first attempt at voice acting.  He does such a wonderful job portraying a sad and lonely character, that just wants to be loved.  The vulnerability in his voice is just one facet of his character.  There is a Shrek-like, temper inside his character, that Reily brings to the forefront a time or two during the movie.

Also wonderful are the supporting characters, and their voice actors.  Sarah Silverman, using a barely recognizable voice, plays a tiny friend that Ralph meets in a Candy Land like game of race cars.  She also adds a vulnerability to her character that makes the friendship much more realistic.  Jack McBryer plays Felix, the hero in the game Ralph is supposed to terrorize.  He is just spot on, he totally nails in.  And the wonderful Jane Lynch plays a soldier that is a part of a game that is invested by alien bugs.  She's loud, proud, and a total leader in the film.  Good stuff.

What I didn't like:
The Story
As great a premise Wreck it Ralph offers, it's a very weak story.  There are characters that grow, and a definitive beginning, middle and end.  But it's that middle part that gets me.  Much of it takes place in the game called Sugar Rush, and very little actually happens.  It is this second act, that makes the movie drag, and also reach a much younger audience than this 30+ blogger.  So I get it.  But a story is a story, and this one was a weak one at best.  I have a feeling Pixar would have taken some extra time to iron out the details on this before they began animation.  Nonetheless, a very good movie.

The Verdict:
A fun, nostalgic look a video games past
Seeing Bowser from the Mario Brothers, Sonic the Hedgehog, Q-Bert and a long list of others; had to conjure up some fond memories of innocent video game play that took up a full Summer weekend.  Video games are much much different today than they were when I was a kid.  The magic and wonder of where the games could take us, is all but gone.  Replaced instead with high definition graphics and more violence than an Oliver Stone film.  That's ok though.  Because we'll have films like Wreck it Ralph and Toy Story that remind us of a much simpler time in our lives; when all we wanted to do was play with our toys and our video games.

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