Starring the voices of: John C. Reilly, Jack McBryer, Jane Lynch, Sarah Silverman.
Rated: PG. Animated/Comedy. Running time: 1 Hour and 41 Minutes.
Maria, Ethan and I have seen some wonderful animated films together since we started our MRSRAG blog in June. I have pointed out on several occasions that these movies are easily and consistently better than the mainstream Hollywood offerings. Maria has often extolled the virtues of the lessons taught and learned, some veiled and some not, for young and old alike. Well, I will say right here that Wreck-It Ralph is hands down the best yet in my opinion. Ralph (Reilly) is the “bad” guy in an old school video game. He “wrecks” this apartment building, while Felix (McBryer) attempts to fix it with his magic hammer. After the lights go out in the arcade, the video game characters have their own lives, and Ralph’s leaves a lot to be desired. He is lonely, lives in an actual dump, never gets invited to any parties, and he is tired of being the bad guy. He even attends AA type meetings for video game heavies called “Bad-Anon.” These scenes will tickle even the most casual of video gamers. The movie begins in earnest when Ralph decides to leave his game in the pursuit of a “hero’s medal”, hoping it’s aquisition will bring some happiness to his life.
I was quite excited to see this movie, mostly because of the casting of voices for the lead characters. I am a huge fan of both Sarah Silverman and John C. Reilly, so my expectations were that the film would at least be decent. Wreck-It Ralph pulled out all the stops and left me utterly shocked and impressed. It had the usual makings of animated children’s films – great graphics, clever humor and pertinent lessons. However, it added several new aspects that I haven’t seen exercised in this genre. Firstly, there’s a twist! I won’t embellish any further, but take it from someone who watches a lot of children’s films – there is rarely a twist that an adult won’t see coming. Ross and I were pleasantly surprised to find that this was not the case with Wreck-It Ralph. Secondly, the plot of this film was inventive and original. I love watching a story that’s sharp, smart and fresh. I was recently complaining about watching the same regurgitated ideas, so I found this movie invigorating and refreshing – for a change. Lastly, I love a film that pays homage to its roots. Adults will love seeing jokes and references to some of their favorite childhood memories of arcade and video games. My personal favorite nostalgic moment was when they showed an old Nintendo Gray Box controller being used as an opening device for a safe. The Gray Box was one of my all time favorite Christmas presents ever and I will never forget playing the Super Mario Brothers game until I finally beat every single level.
Ahh the Gray Box! Super Mario 3, Castlevania, Zelda. And what about in the arcades, with Ms. Pacman, Donkey Kong, Galaga et al. Wreck-It Ralph seemingly touches on them all, the new and the old. So Ralph leaves his game and heads to Hero’s Duty, a game of warfare against some nefarious insects, where the good guys are led by the extremely hard-assed Calhoun (Lynch). She of course gets immediately pissed at Ralph’s incompetence, but somehow he perserveres and “wins” his medal. He promptly attempts to fly home but ultimately crash lands in a racing game called Sugar Rush, that looks a lot like the board game Candy Land. There he meets the wise-cracking, cute, displaced Vanellope (voiced perfectly by Silverman), and their exchanges along with a growing friendship are the absolute heart of the movie.
Vanellope is my favorite. She embodies cuteness, even with her ill-intentioned plan to “borrow” Ralph’s medal, which she needs to gain a place in competition amongst the other racers of Sugar Rush. She convinces Ralph to help her build a race car, but they find themselves up against an overwhelming opposition to Vanellope’s participation in the race. Predominantly the main lesson of this film is standing up for what’s right. Ralph finds himself in a predicament after hearing misinformation from King Candy, the malicious monarch who seems bent on keeping Vanellope at a safe distance from his race and his kingdom. Ralph learns a valuable lesson at this point in the story and decides to truly become the good guy he has always wanted to be. With some help from his old friend Felix he becomes Vanellope’s hero and aids her in achieving her dream of racing. Another important lesson of this film is simple kindness. This lesson is made apparent by the other characters from Ralph’s game who never appreciated him or respected him. These same people realize they need him and when he returns to the game where he belongs he is greeted with the kind of treatment that would have prevented his absence in the first place. Lessons aside, I really enjoyed this movie. It had a lot of heart and I was uncharacteristically moved by it.
I’ll be honest, I can be a pretty big softie, and Wreck-It Ralph had me misty on a couple of occasions. It delivers some truly meaningful messages that parents should want their kids to see, hear and learn. And what better way in this day and age to convey those messages, than through a movie based inside video games. My boy Ethan (9) is a gamer extraordinaire, and I would guess many of you out there have one or two of your own. He loved Ralph, and I’m sure the lessons got through to him easier and meant a bit more, because of the way they were delivered. I would highly recommend Wreck-It Ralph to the young and the young at heart. Not to get too deep, but on this election night in America, where we’re all on the edges of our seats, rooting for our own biases – and it seems, no matter who wins we’ll still be a nation divided; I guarantee we would all agree on the pure slice of apple pie ala mode that is the sweet, endearing and enduring Wreck-It Ralph.
Maria’s Rating: 4.5 Gummy Bears out of 5.
Ross’ Rating: 5 emphatic Gummies.