Deep down, everyone wishes to be a hero. But when you are cast as the villain in your game, what can you do? In Walt Disney Animation Studio's animated feature Wreck-It Ralph, an unlikely character learns that maybe being the bad guy is not such a bad thing after all.
I’m Gonna Wreck It!
In a magical world where arcade game characters hop out of their games after closing hours, Wreck-It Ralph follows Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly), who is the designated antagonist of the arcade game Fix-It Felix Jr.
After decades of being overshadowed by the star of their game Felix (Jack McBrayer), Ralph decides that he is tired of playing the “bad guy”. So he sneaks into other games — all connected through Game Central Station — hoping to find a gold medal that will earn him respect from his fellow game residents.
His quest takes him into Hero's Duty, a first-person shooter where a group of Space Marines led by tough-as-nails Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch) exterminate omnivorous mutant insects known as ‘cy-bugs’.
After a disastrous attempt to blend in, Ralph stumbles out of Hero's Duty and crash lands into the saccharine kart-racing game Sugar Rush. There, he meets Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), an aspiring racer who is exiled for being a glitch — a malfunction in the computer code.
Although they do not get along at first, Ralph and Vanellope soon develop a strong friendship when Ralph realizes that she is just as an outcast as he is. They team together to help her win a race and ultimately get him a gold medal, but of course things are never easy in a game.
Unbeknownst to Ralph, he unleashed a terrible danger when he entered Sugar Rush, and now the integrity of the game is in jeopardy. Meanwhile, back at Fix-It Felix Jr., Felix sets out to get Ralph back before the arcade owner pulls the plug on their game for losing its critical element: a bad guy to compete against.
With the stakes high before him, can Ralph finally get his gold medal and become the hero he always wants to be?
Parents Need to Know
The film debut of director Rich Moore and produced by John Lasseter, Wreck-It Ralph is similar to Disney's other critically-acclaimed animated movies Toy Story and Monsters, Inc. in that it imagines inanimate characters coming to life.
The movie is a splendid treat for old-school gamers, featuring arcade games and a dozen or so cameo appearance by famous video game characters like Sonic the Hedgehog, Ken and Ryu of Street Fighter, Browser of Super Mario Bros, and many more. However, even without being an avid gamer, you can still enjoy the movie as the main cast and their game worlds are original creations.
As a movie based on video games, Wreck-It Ralph realistically portrays the action-packed and sometimes violent nature of some games. Some scenes may involve weapons, fighting, and bombastic crashes. There are also some intense scenes that may not be suitable for younger children, such as (villainous) character death by getting swallowed by a giant cyborg bug.
In terms of humor, the movie is quite witty, although there are some name callings and potty jokes, mostly provided by the lead female character Vanellope. Some exaggerated exclamations like ”Son of a gun!” are also used throughout the plot.
There are some references to drinking, such as when Ralph consults the bartender at Tapper's and when Sergeant Calhoun reflects back on her memories with her ex-fiancé drinking wine on a picnic.
As with most video games, several female characters appear in revealing or otherwise form-fitting outfits. There are also some romantic relationship between Felix and Calhoun, and they kiss and marry towards the end of the movie.
Given the theme of the movie and some intense scenes, I would suggest the movie for kids ages eight and up.
Things I Like
As a Disney production, I expected nothing but stellar animation from Wreck-It Ralph, and the movie delivered. Although older audiences may find the movie garish in comparison to the lush and natural Brave, Wreck-It Ralph is lovely in its own way.
The movie is incredibly detailed, and much thought was given into designing the characters and the worlds they live in. I like how each of the three main worlds introduced — Fix-It Felix Jr., Hero's Duty, and Sugar Rush — are vastly different from one another.
For example, as a classic game from the 70s, Fix-It Felix Jr. is a pixelated world where the characters are blocky and jittery. Hero's Duty is dark and desolate, but the characters have proportional, smoothly animated figures. And Sugar Rush, as suggested by its name, is an exuberant and high-octane world where the characters look super deformed.
The characters are also endearing, and although they may not be as iconic as say, Woody or Buzz of the Toy Story fame, you can’t help but be charmed by them. I personally enjoy seeing how the female leads (Vanellope and Calhoun) are tough and assertive, making a point that it is okay for girls to take charge instead of waiting to be rescued.
Putting aside its bright and colorful appearance, though, Wreck-It Ralph is surprisingly deep. The storytelling is fairly fluid, and there is a sentimental, Disney-ish message underneath the brash and loud front.
In the end, I think this sentimental message is what really drives this movie home. In a world where there is constant pressure to aspire for normality and peer validation, Wreck-It Ralph tells you that it is okay to be different, to always look beyond one's appearance, and to take action and make a change.
I think Wreck-It Ralph is a great movie that pushes all the right buttons, even if you are not the gaming kind. It may seem artificial at first, but it surprisingly contains a lot of depth and a heartfelt message at the end. I honestly enjoyed it from start to finish, and I imagine it would make a terrific intro to gaming for kiddos.
And by the way, if you are interested in the movie, I would also recommend Wreck-It Ralph: Hero's Duty Interactive Comic for the iPad and iPhone. Also published by Disney, this well-made interactive comic tells how the cy-bugs came to be and why the Space Marines had to stay on an estranged planet to destroy them.