Published Nov 01, 2012While its charms are ample and its voice talent superb, Disney's nostalgic tribute to the villains and heroes of the arcade age burns through its most interesting and resonant ideas early on.
As the antagonist of quaint 8-bit game Fix-It Felix, Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) notes, "It's hard to love your job when nobody appreciates you for doing it." The literal knuckle dragger goes through the same routine every day: try to wreck a high rise before Felix (Jack McBrayer, 30 Rock) can fix it, then get tossed in the mud by the angry building tenants while Felix gets a shiny medal of honour and heaps of fawning adoration.
When it's closing time at the arcade, Toy Story-style, the game characters have personalities and lives outside of their entertainment duties. On the 30th anniversary of his game, Ralph, feeling even more lonely and underappreciated than normal, attends a villain support group hosted by one of the Pac-Man ghosts that's populated by characters like Super Mario's Bowser and Street Fighter's Russian bear wrestler, Zangief. This scene cleverly spins nostalgia into a touching discussion of the psychological toll of being vilified for doing an unpleasant, but necessary job.
It's a shame more time isn't spent on this kind of poignant character work and world building — the best bits of the movie involve little asides like a homeless Q-Bert representing games that have been unplugged. Instead, it doesn't take long for Ralph to become fixated on being the hero in a different game since he can't be one in his.
The results of tampering with the status quo are depicted as dangerous and destructive — heroics are all well and good, but know your role and learn to love it. While it's refreshing for a story aimed at kids to say that not everyone can be, or should aspire to be, a hero, the way Wreck-It Ralph goes about doing so is a little hypocritical and a bit disconcerting in its enforcement of strict class divides.
Even so, with a vibrant colour palette, highly kinetic action, witty rendering of the movements of 8-bit game characters in HD CGI and Sarah Silverman as an annoying candy-kart racing brat who sneaks in phrases like, "vurp" (burping up vomit), Wreck-It Ralph is worth a watch in the absence of superior offerings from Dreamworks or Pixar. (Disney)