MANILA, Philippines - Wreck It Ralph promises us a video game-themed adventure, and on that promise it delivers pretty well.
It’s catching a lot of comparisons as this generation’s Toy Story in its use of something beloved by children anthropomorphised and given their own story.
While it might employ a similar idea as Toy Story, and its shots at cuteness and rooting for the underdog echo Pixar, this movie falls short of the deeper emotional beats that Pixar regularly pulls off.
However, it is a big step for Disney (now being led by Pixar’s John Lasseter, whose name figures prominently in this flick as an executive producer) which is trying to mount yet another creative renaissance.
In that sense, Wreck It Ralph shows us that Disney can still deliver the goods, and it gives us a kiddie movie that most everyone can love:
1. King Koopa, Pacman and Sonic the Hedgehog are there
With all of its referencing on display in the trailers, we know that the filmmakers acquired some licenses and they are using a lot of characters that figure prominently in many video games, and many more characters from various types of games show up here.
This was one of the film’s selling points for me. It’s like when it knocks on your door it shows you its geek ID so that you’ll let it in.
2. This animated film is comedy gold
There is lots of fun in the preliminary sequences, especially the scene where they have a support group for bad guys.
But then, just as quickly as it zips through these various games and shows us all these characters we are familiar with, it leaves its geek cred at the door and proceeds to tell its story within 3 fictional video games.
I accept that a film should be taken on its own terms. And the story that Wreck It Ralph chooses to tell is situated within these fictional games. So I base my rating on that.
(But I can’t help but think, man, how much crazier would this have been if he were jumping around all those different games? It would have been a totally different story, and that’s not the one the filmmakers wanted to tell, but I find myself speculating over that.)
3. The story they do tell is fitting, often all-too-familiar and sometimes genuinely sad and sweet
The story is one of outsiders and the misunderstood.
We’ve got Ralph, who is the villain in the video game Fix It Felix, Jr. which is celebrating its 30th year anniversary. Thing is, Ralph isn’t invited to the party. And no one is ever nice to him. And he’s tired of being the bad guy. So he decides to leave his game to find himself a shiny medal so that the people will invite him to the party and be nice to him, too.
So we’ve got this little play on behavior, with characters essentially bound to their code but given little layers where they can develop as individuals.
This is probably one of those main connections that people see with Toy Story as it allows these types that we are already familiar with but it expands and gives them a different life that we had not ever imagined.
4. The film uses various visual styles
We have the play of 8-bit classics along with stuff like Street Fighter and the very modern look of the fictional game Hero’s Duty.
The filmmakers took their time and paid attention to detail, and this is shown not only in the larger and differing visual styles, but even in the smaller character movements.
Take note of the residents in the building that Ralph regularly wrecks and their herky-jerky movements reminiscent of the movement of those older games.
Even the clashing types of Felix next to the hard-talking bug-stomping Calhoun standing next to each other make for a good image.
(However, most of the flick plays out in the kiddie go-cart racing game Sugar Rush. Here we are introduced to Vanellope, the inevitable cute kid that Ralph meets and creates a bond with as he attempts to become a hero. Both the relationship and the visual peg of the two are reminiscent to Boo and Sully of Monsters, Inc. This isn’t knocking on this movie, it’s just something that I couldn’t help but notice.)
5. Wreck It Ralph hits the familiar cartoon beats
The misunderstood outsider who just wants people to like him leaves his place and goes on an adventure.
He meets people who help him discover who he is while he continues his quest.
There’s the cute kid who forces him to reconsider himself and his quest. They wind up helping each other.
There’s a secret. There’s a darkness that is to be revealed.
It all sounds familiar, stuff that we’ve gone through before.
And true enough we could treat this film as such. But there’s an excitement and energy to this flick that makes it worth the watch.
Sure, it’s cooking with the same ingredients as most other kiddle animated flicks. But it comes up with something cool and fun.
If you’re a kid and you’re not as jaded as this reviewer and all those other grownups, then — heck — you’re gonna love this.
In all honesty, I loved it, too.
Sure, I can see its flaws and weaknesses. But when it tried to get to the heart of things, it got to me, too.
I suppose that I am part of this movie’s target audience (primary audience: kids; secondary audience: overweight video games nerds), but even then I think that it’s a good kid flick, something that kids both young and old will have fun with.
Here’s a confession, though: While I think that you should go see Wreck It Ralph because it is a good fun Disney flick, I think you get your money’s worth from watching the short cartoon that comes before it, Paperman.
This black and white short is a beautiful little film that tells a story that is perhaps the most romantic and cheesiest thing that I’ve seen in a while, and I loved it more than Wreck It Ralph. - Rappler.com
Carljoe Javier teaches at the UP Department of English and Comparative Literature. He has written a few books, most recently the new edition of The Kobayashi Maru of Love available from Visprint Inc. and the upcoming Writing 30 available as an ebook at amazon, ibookstore, b&n and flipreads.com.