- Rated PG
- Buy the BD
All photos © Walt Disney
Reviewed by David Medsker
ovies like “Wreck-It Ralph” make me realize just how arbitrary star ratings for movies can be. No one over the age of 10 is going to think this is on the same level as “Argo” or some other piece of Oscar bait, but at the same time, “Ralph” is smart, sweet, wildly inventive, just a little bit naughty, and a ton of fun to watch. It’s far better than “Hotel Transylvania,” so it seemed right to give it at least an extra star. So there it is, with the same rating that I gave “127 Hours.” Maybe I got “Hotel” wrong, but I wanted to give it a rating that showed that I liked it just a little bit more than “Brave.” There is a method to the whole rating thing, I promise, but at the same time, it is far from an exact science. If you take anything away from this review, it’s that “Wreck-It Ralph” is the best animated movie I’ve seen this year. “Madagascar 3” was good, but this takes more risks.
Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) is the villain in the classic coin-op game “Fix-It Felix Jr.,” and he’s struggling with being the bad guy; he wants to know what it feels like to be a hero and be rewarded for doing something good, so he leaves Fit-It Felix Jr., heads for Game Central Station (the power strip that powers all of the games), and cons his way into the first-person shooter game “Hero’s Duty” once he learns he can win a gold medal. Ralph, though, is not prepared for the intensity of “Hero’s Duty” gameplay, and he inadvertently sets off a series of events that lead to him making his first friend, a saucy little girl named Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) from the Mario Kart-esque “Sugar Rush.” Unfortunately, he has also accidentally doomed them all.
A note to parents of little ones: my 5-year-old son did not like this movie one bit, and he had been looking forward to seeing it for months. The reason: the emotional complexity is an awful lot for a kiddo to handle. You teach your kids to be good, and not to be mean, and this movie has a “bad” guy and a snotty (but funny) little brat as its lead characters. They do bad things to each other, and they do bad things to other people. (They do good things too, but again, think about how a 5-year-old would process this.) Kids see things in black and white, but “Wreck-It Ralph” is mostly gray. The actions of the characters might confuse them.
Their parents, however, will find much to love, from video game references galore (too many to count) to little things like the back story of “Hero’s Duty” lead soldier Calhoun (a spot-on Jane Lynch), the 8-bit movement style of Ralph’s game mates even when they’re not playing, and Felix’s (Jack McBrayer, also perfectly cast) wide-eyed wonder at the hi-res graphics of Calhoun’s world. The director is Rich Moore, who helmed some of the greatest “Simpsons” episodes of all time, which would explain the unexpectedly heartfelt final scene. Those who have seen “Lisa’s Substitute” just nodded knowingly.
Disney is often accused of playing it safe and going for the lowest common denominator, and there are movies of theirs that are absolutely guilty of that. Every once in a while, though, they do something ridiculously high-concept and clever, and “Wreck-It Ralph” is one of those moments. If ever a movie deserved the tag line “Get ready to root for the bad guy,” it’s this, which is a hell of a lot more entertaining than the movie that actually has that tag line.
Two-Disc Blu-ray Review:
This is a surprisingly barren set, considering how well-liked the movie is by critics and fans alike. There are some deleted scenes, one of which would have made a nice addition to the movie (two words: deadly unicorn) but the others are admittedly nonessential. There is an in-depth featurette on the design of the many video game worlds within the movie, and some amusing period-piece commercials promoting the then-new games at the arcade in which the movie takes place. The set also contains the fantastic, Oscar-winning "Paperman" short film, and that is basically it. Still, the movie is well worth it by itself.