HST…Film Review: Wreck-It Ralph

Zac: Wreck-It Ralph is a beautiful and loving homage to arcade games that I wish was more than just that for the majority of its runtime.

Ralph is a bad guy and, quite frankly, he is sick of it. The villain in a Donkey Kong era arcade game, Fix-It Felix Jr., Ralph has been beaten and despised for thirty years. Ralph decides he wants to take his fate into his own hands and not be an outcast like he and all of his fellow villains are in the circuitry world that connects all of the games in the arcade. Ralph sets out to get a medal so that he can be accepted into the world of the good guys, but Ralph’s absence from his game forces Felix to track him down to prevent their game from being shut down for good.

Lauren: Who would ever think this was all going on behind the screen, right? That’s the fantastical world that we find ourselves in, starting from the viewpoint of the typical arcade dweller that any gamer is used to. But as we circle around the 2D games’ glass surfaces, there is a whole lot more going on than what is in the presented programming. As the arcade closes for the night, the inhabitants of the words are free to enjoy themselves, even traveling outside their own world by meeting up in the hub of the surge protector, where they can then branch off into other games if they would like.

The creativity and imagination that went into this aspect is where this movie is at its peak, but unfortunately it’s only down hill from there as Ralph decides to become the hero he wants to be.

Zac: Ralph isn’t even trying to become a hero as the marketing would lead us to believe. Ralph is instead after a red herring of a medal that he views as a symbol of acceptance, not even realizing how worthless of an endeavor it is to those he is trying to do it for. What we are left with is Ralph on a pointless mission only to get tied up with Vanellope who is also on another seemingly pointless goal of entering a race within her own game world. So that is two of our four leads walking around moderately bonding while the other two are seemingly shoe horned into a romance and the film as a whole. This leads the film to rely mostly on its often-brilliant homages and references to keep the film moving forward, and bad puns and sophomoric humor to keep the kids laughing. Too much nostalgia, not enough plot or character development.

Lauren: I don’t know if I would ever really use brilliant on this one, other than the scene with the Oreos, because most of the time I was so busy rolling my eyes at the “I’m so proud of myself for coming up with a pun for every other line” dialog, granted it at least gave me a nice break from staring at the tired scenery.

One of the exciting aspects about this film that drew me to it was the idea of game jumping, thinking that by film’s end we would have visited a handful of worlds that Ralph had tried to become the hero in (as Zac pointed out, we find out that this isn’t really his goal). But unfortunately after Hero’s Duty (be prepared for a lot of jokes based on that name) the only other place we go to is a racing world called Sugar Rush. The racing bits within this world are pretty fun as they play out like MarioKart, minus the use of Rihanna’s misplaced “Shut Up and Drive,” but this is only one moment in the vast span of mind-numbing Candy Land imagery. It takes little to no time for the look of this world to lose its appeal, causing a large sugar-high crash down to the depths of a rather lengthy period of boredom until the final conflict (that is 1 part unnecessary thanks to the Cy-Bugs, 1 part surprising since I actually didn’t see a major plot point coming).

Zac: The final Disney logo after the credits ends on a kill screen, which equals brilliant. But that’s neither here nor there.

Moving on, I totally agree with Lauren’s disappointment surrounding the lack of games Ralph dives into, and even the cameos are a let down from a certain standpoint. This is no Who Framed Roger Rabbit? where we get everyone from everything ever animated, instead we only get a couple appearances by characters mostly from Street Fighter 2, and we spend the majority of the time in the original creations (Fix-It Felix Jr. is actually a pretty fun game that you can play online and/or get for your tablet device).

The film does have some redeeming qualities. I would argue the third act of the film is almost perfect. For all of the tedium and lack of plot that fills the majority of the film, director Rich Moore takes every little piece laid out and folds it together wonderfully. He does this so well that it makes you wonder where this plotting brilliance was the rest of the film. The major plot point Lauren mentions will blind side you, and the heroic moment Ralph is finally given works pretty damn well; the big finale almost makes up for most of the film’s shortcomings. Sarah Silverman is also the standout performance as she somehow makes the potentially annoying Vanellope a sweet and endearing character.

Lauren: Yeah the closest I came to regularly playing a fighter growing up was Super Smash Bros., though I did play a Mortal Kombat at a Pizza Hut once or twice, which means that for a large percentage of the first act I felt like I was on the outside looking in on a rather exclusive club because I grew up in the age of console gaming. Obviously this isn’t the film’s fault since they’re presenting a world full of arcade game characters, but I still found it weird that the more universally known characters to all ages and gaming expertise are thrown in less frequently than the rest. Personally I would have loved to see a nonchalant Mario/Bowser conversation since they’re the epic match-up I grew up with, or a scene tossed in to show that Mario only saves Princess Peach because it’s his job and not for love. That would have been a gaming culture bomb that really would have cemented the idea of this world; but alas, Wreck-It Ralph was not tailored to me.

Granted I doubt the kids seeing this will really care about this as much as I did. They’ll just miss out on a lot of the first act in-jokes without even realizing it, and then get pulled in with the characters originating in this film (I’d go with Jack McBrayer’s Fix-It Felix if we’re picking performances even if I wasn’t always fond of what he was tasked with, like most characters). They weren’t always as strong as I would like them, but at least they were enough for me to agree about the strength of the third, which might have brought some tears to the lower rim of my eyes.

Zac: I think Alan Tudyk is also quite good in the film as King Candy, as is director Rich Moore as the little green Sour Bill, but a bunch of good performances doesn’t always make a good movie.

Overall, Wreck-It Ralph fails to be a compelling narrative and doesn’t have interesting enough characters to carry the film otherwise. The third act does work quite wonderfully, pulling everything laid out together in the end, but it comes a little too late, and a lot of viewers (young and old) might have already checked out. Solid 3D, beautiful animation and a solid cast can’t overcome a lackluster story, and I think the film’s third act will have people thinking they saw something better than they really did.

Zac: Wreck-It Ralph is a C+
Lauren’s Final Grade: C     

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One thought on “HST…Film Review: Wreck-It Ralph

  1. Have to disagree with you on this, this movie worked for me on a lot of levels. Despite seeing it with many kids who were rather board and noisy, I was engrossed throughout. The ending was well done, and even the oft annoying Sarah Silverman managed to win me over. Not a great movie, but a really solid movie.

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