After thirty years of being the villain in the game Fix-It Felix, Jr., Wreck-It Ralph is tired of living in a dump, hated and ignored by the other characters in his game. He decides to leave his arcade box and travel to a different game so that he can win a hero’s medal and prove that he is a good guy, too. However, even when he tries to do good Ralph can’t help but wreck things. At first, things go as planned – Ralph enters Hero’s Duty and manages to win the coveted medal, but in the process he crashes a ship and unleashes a virus into a candy-themed racing game called Sugar Rush. A strange little girl named Vanellope steals Ralph’s medal so that she can race in the game, and Ralph has to make sure that she wins if he wants to get his medal back.
When I first saw advertisements for Wreck-It Ralph, something about the film bothered me. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first, but it is this: it doesn’t seem like a Disney movie. Rather, this looks and feels like a Pixar film. Now that John Lasseter is at the helm and Disney owns Pixar, I suppose this might be inevitable, but I had hoped that the two production companies would remain distinctive from each other. But Pixar’s Brave feels more like a Disney movie, and this video game film doesn’t.
What makes it Pixar instead of Disney? I’m not sure, exactly, but my best attempt to explain it comes to this. The best Disney films tend to have a fairy tale quality that makes the story seem to take place in a mythical somewhere. Pixar, by contrast, tends to be far more rooted in the real world. Yes, fantastic things happen – toys talk, cars are alive, and houses are carried off by balloons – but it all starts here and now. Wreck-It Ralph is set in an arcade somewhere during the 21st century – there’s no way around it. Now, Disney can do good movies set in the present – when it was originally released, 101 Dalmatians was quite contemporary. But the box office smash hits typically are not.
I know this shouldn’t reflect on the quality of the film itself, but it’s something that kept going through my head as I watched the movie.
Although I did play video games as a kid, I certainly wasn’t the most avid player, and I don’t feel the strong nostalgia that games from the late 1980s and early 90s inspire in, say, my husband. That said, the premise for Wreck-It Ralph is interesting – what happens to video game characters after the arcade shuts down every night? (Maybe that’s why it makes me think of Pixar…such a similar premise to Toy Story.) I recognized about half of the cameo characters wandering around the various arcades; the rest I found out by poking Seanie and whispering “Which one is that? Is he from a game?” I really liked the design of the Sugar Rush game – why doesn’t someone make that into a real racing game? I would totally buy it. Well, my husband would buy it, but I’d play it with him once in a while.
The vocal casting was really spot-on for this movie. John C. Reilly was perfect for Ralph, utilizing that sad sack persona he does so well. Loved Jack McBrayer as Fix-It Felix and Jane Lynch as Sgt. Calhoun. Sarah Silverman’s voice annoyed me, but then again Vanellope is an annoying character so that’s probably about right, too. The one disappointment was Alan Tudyk as King Candy – although that wasn’t the voice actor’s fault. I’ve read they were trying to make an homage to The Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland with this character. (Why?) If that is the case, I think they did it too well. Tudyk sounds so much like the Mad Hatter that I kept thinking about that character instead of considering King Candy as an individual. So bad directorial choice on that one, I think.
I’m disappointed that scatological humor pops up as frequently as it does, but I get it: entertain the kids. The story follows the Pixar formula of gradual world building for the first two-thirds of the movie, followed by a rapid action-infused final third. See? Another reason I keep thinking this is a Pixar movie, not a Disney movie. At least the story keeps moving fluidly; there weren’t any really stagnant areas and eventually all the various plot threads tie together very neatly.
I don’t love this movie, and I’m not sure that I’d say I liked it, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I was expecting.
But it still felt like a Pixar film.
Also, if the characters die when their game gets turned off, what happens during a power outage?