Gaming for Glory: No need for Mr. Fix-It – this animated film fuses gamer cool with kid-friendly story.
Thursday, November 1, 2012
That beautiful Toy Story premise of what your favorite toys do when you’re not watching has been recoded for the arcade.
In Wreck-It Ralph, we see behind the screen after the gamers go home. It’s a nightly celebration for Fix-It Felix, the hero of the game. Typecast as the villain, Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) has good reason to feel unappreciated. He’s still smarting from 30 years of being dropped off a building into the mud every time Felix (Jack McBrayer) saves the day with his magic hammer. Living in a dump (literally) doesn’t help.
Ralph just wants to be the hero for once.
Ralph’s quest for glory takes him, fittingly, to a first-person shooter called “Hero’s Duty.” In that world, Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch) leads her troops against “Cy-Bugs,” as Ralph wonders, “When did video games get so violent? It’s scary out here!”
Then Ralph’s shortcut to the “Medal of Heroes” sends him on a crash course to “Sugar Rush.” That candy-coated land of racing is where we meet the heart of the film, Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), who is a “glitch” just trying to survive. That doesn’t stop the kid racer from chasing her dream, even if King Candy (Alan Tudyk) decrees she doesn’t belong on the track. As the outcasts team up, Ralph learns his journey to “Sugar Rush” has put the entire arcade in danger of being unplugged.
Director Rich Moore (Futurama and The Simpsons) seeks the balance between gamer cool and kid-friendly fun. The rules of this world seem intuitive enough. The most important: “If you die outside your own game, you won’t regenerate, ever. Game over,” Sonic the Hedgehog tells us.
The minds behind major animated releases continue to draw upon a new favorite character – the misunderstood (or reformed) villain. Sometimes, it’s an ogre scaring the villagers (“Shrek”) and sometimes, it’s a monster in a closet just doing his business, collecting screams (Monsters, Inc.). A more recent twist appears in the form of a supervillain tired of being the bad guy (Megamind and Gru in Despicable Me). Ralph has his moments playing off this archetype.
Wreck-It Ralph shows its great potential in a villains’ support group, “Bad-Anon,” with the slogan: “One Game at a Time.” It’s there that Bowser, Dr. Robotnik and Clyde pop up among a group of a dozen classic baddies, with Zangief of “Street Fighter” delivering the best lines in his Russian accent.
The visual jokes (the cops are donuts in “Sugar Rush”) and the teaming of Ralph and Vanellope keep the action speeding along to the final battle.
Wreck-It Ralph is a Walt Disney Animation Studios production, but it resonates with Pixar energy and heart, maybe even more than Cars 2 and Brave did. Executive producer John Lasseter (Toy Story) receives some of the credit.
Before the film, audiences can catch the seven-minute Paperman, a black-and-white short that mixes hand-drawn and computer-generated animation and gives new meaning to the term “paper pusher,” as a lonely young man searches for the girl of his dreams, and fate steps in to help.
WRECK-IT RALPH (3) Directed by Richard Moore • Starring the voices of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Alan Tudyk, Jack McBrayer and Mindy Kaling • Rated PG • Century Cinemas Del Monte, Maya Cinemas, Northridge Cinemas, Lighthouse Cinemas, Cannery Row XD.