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2 reviews, 9 user ratings

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Wreck-It Ralph
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by Brett Gallman

"Disney enters the Konami Code to unlock a good video game movie."
4 stars

With its feet somewhat planted in previous Disney efforts such as “Toy Story” and “Tron,” “Wreck-it Ralph” positions itself to be a nostalgic retread for the generation weaned on arcades and the early days of gaming. While it’ll no doubt stir up some fond, pixilated memories for that crowd, it succeeds because it refuses to drown itself in its wellspring of nostalgia and ultimately stands as a familiar but affirming film whose digital characters have the most important dimension--a human one.

Trapped within the program of thirty year old video game “Fix-it Felix, Jr.” (think “Rampage” meets “Donkey Kong”), Ralph (John C. Reilly) spends every day as its bad guy, a condition that invariably ends with him being shoved from a building while his heroic counterpart (Jack McBrayer) is adorned with a medal. No longer content with this fate (despite the help of his friends at Bad Guys Anonymous), Ralph decides to jump games in an attempt to become a hero. His travels carry him to various arenas, but he ends up in “Sugar Rush,” a candy-colored, confectionary take on kart racing, where he has to team up with fellow outcast Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) in order for both of them to win acceptance.

Despite so the abundance of hoary tropes (the mismatched duo, the bonehead with a heart of gold, the syrupy messages), “Wreck-It Ralph” often feels remarkably fresh. Propelled by a relentless energy and anchored by a sly sense of wit, its spirited nature finds its grasp early on and never relents in the face of a slightly over-cooked plot. In its insistence to provide sub-plots for so many characters, it sometimes deviates a bit from the main thrust involving Ralph and Vanellope, but the bunch is so endearing that it hardly matters.

Reilly infuses Ralph with his trademark loveable, down-on-his luck loser charm, and the central irony that he’s a good guy stuck with a bad guy’s programming is easily gleaned from the start. His pairing with Silverman’s loud-mouthed, petulant pre-teen bespeaks an oddly fraternal relationship that anchors the film. Whereas Ralph’s simply a discontented bad guy, she’s a glitch who isn’t even supposed to exist within her game, and the film veers off into some surprisingly heady and philosophical territory that belies Silverman’s juvenile inflection. What starts as an odd-couple buddy adventure swiftly becomes a tricky, treacherous jaunt through a horde of jealous rival programs, such as Alan Tudyk’s King Candy, the crabby overlord of Sugar Rush who sounds like he was imported from a Rankin Bass television special.

Playing in support is McBrayer’s Felix, a goody-two-shoes whose folksy demeanor also plays in expected contrast with Jane Lynch’s Sergeant Calhoun, the nail-spitting space marine from “Hero’s Duty” (an obvious “Gears of War” riff). Armed with a ridiculous back-story and a stockroom of mouthy one-liners, she’s a spat of spitfire grease that represents the new guard of violent, hyperkinetic gaming that clashes with the quaint 8-bit world inhabited by Felix. Their subplot is a token one that perhaps feels more tacked on than the others, but, like the rest of the film’s disparate dots, it eventually connects in correct fashion.

In addition to its various quips, witticisms, and silliness, the script also provides the necessary action beats in the way of a chaotic gunfight that sees Ralph bumbling and stumbling through an extraterrestrial battlefield, as well as a climactic race sequence that’s every bit as fun to watch as it would be to play “Sugar Rush” if it were a real game. One of Rich Moore’s most noteworthy triumphs is his ability to replicate the video game experience with sequences that dazzle and engross without descending into overwrought tedium. Rather than exhaust the audience’s patience with meandering, overdone action, Moore opts for quick, effective bursts of fun that one might experience after dropping a quarter into an arcade machine.

“Wreck-It Ralph” also nails its video game culture; not only is it filled with both overt and obtuse references, but it also wisely avoids becoming an endless parade of winks and nods that would distract from its original set of characters. Instead, the recognizable characters from actual properties act to introduce us to and ground us in this world, which imagines them to have a life beyond the cabinet when an arcade closes shop. The influence of “Toy Story” is at its most obvious here, as the characters hop between different games, their interactions revealing a world defined by set rules and vocabulary. For example, Ralph is said to be “going turbo” when he announces his intentions to break the bad guy mold to his support group, which boasts the likes of the Pac-Man ghost, Bowser, Kano, and other villainous luminaries.

Once the story involving Ralph and Vanellope takes hold, though, “Wreck-It Ralph” largely leaves behind the constant winking and nodding. In fact, there are more riffs on other brand names and media properties (a “Star Wars” nod seems eerily prescient considering Disney’s recent acquisition of Lucasfilm), and some of the gags are quite brilliant (an Oreo-laden riff on a familiar “Wizard of Oz” tune left me in stitches). While Moore continues to pepper in the occasional video game wink throughout, he rightfully sets off on crafting his own worlds, which admittedly feel a bit familiar to anyone who has picked up a controller in recent years.

The “Hero’s Duty” world is a slick dystopia filled with “Alien”-styled eggs that hatch hordes of locusts, a stark contrast to the Candyland stylings of “Sugar Rush,” and the eventual mash-up of the two leads to an inspired climax. Visually, the film is a loving amalgam of retro, low-bit designs and more modern, dimensional polygons, a mixture that recalls the medium’s transition to more advanced graphics.

“Wreck-It Ralph” looks an awfully lot like a video game, a medium that’s mostly just been plain awful at the movies, but Moore proves that it’s certainly possible to make a great film that just happens to be about video games. Aside from the initial rush provided by picking out the “Roger Rabbit” style cameos, the setting is mostly incidental, as there’s a truly human heart beating at the center of it. Though its morals may be familiar and its character beats predictable, “Wreck-It Ralph” delivers both with an earnest conviction and an infectious mettle that strike obvious and maybe even some corny chords.

But they also strike some poignant ones too, and many of them are set to the dallying, jovial beat of a bygone era that’s still got some quarters left in the tank after all.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=20785&reviewer=429
originally posted: 11/03/12 03:46:36
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User Comments

3/22/15 Jerry Spray A great film, up until venellope craps all over it with her annoying personality. 2 stars
6/17/13 Annie G Much much better than I expected! 4 stars
3/04/13 Son of Celluloid This is what a family movie should be, it works on a kid's and adult level. Loved it. 4 stars
2/10/13 Mami2jcn The voice talent was the best part. 4 stars
12/05/12 Emma McCauley LOVE THIS! 5 stars
11/17/12 Marty Nice voice casting, specially Silverman. great story/script. rly funny! some plot holes 4 stars
11/13/12 Flipsider Great premise, nearly ruined by certain annoying characters. 2 stars
11/08/12 Ronald Pottol Good for both kids and grown ups 5 stars
11/08/12 Abigail Grat film! 5 stars
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  02-Nov-2012 (PG)
  DVD: 05-Mar-2013


  DVD: 05-Mar-2013

Directed by
  Rich Moore

Written by
  Phil Johnston
  Jennifer Lee

  John C. Reilly
  Sarah Silverman
  Jack McBrayer
  Jane Lynch
  Alan Tudyk
  Mindy Kaling

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