Friday, June 7, 2013

The Sweetest Homewrecker You'll Ever Know - Review of "Wreck-it Ralph"

When can we do this again?
I'd heard tons of great stuff about the movie Wreck-It Ralph when it was out in theaters last year, but due to some upheaval in my personal life at the time I never made it to see it on the big screen.  But I was determined to see it on DVD when it was released.  And I finally got to see it (thanks to a currently-employed-at-Blockbuster roommate.  Hey, the wait list at the library is insanely huge!)  And my short review is - I LOVED IT!

It would have been so easy just to play Wreck-it Ralph off as Toy Story with video games instead of toys.  On some level, that's the basic concept.  There's a world of video game characters that interact with each other when the arcade is closed, but when it's game time - these games exist for the purpose of making gamers happy.  But this world also goes both ways - these characters want to be loved by the gamers as well.

Which is why Wreck-it Ralph has such a hard time being the bad guy.  He wants to be loved just like Fix-it Felix, Jr. is loved - both by the gamers and the citizens of Niceland.  He doesn't mind being part of the game Fix-It Felix, Jr.  He doesn't have a problem with wrecking things or even living in the dump.  But he just wants to be respected.  Acknowledged. Invited over for a piece of cake during the 30th anniversary celebrations of the game.  But the citizens of Niceland are scared of Ralph.  Felix barely tolerates the guy.  And, honestly, can you blame Ralph for going off in search of respect?

Turns out that Ralph going AWOL (he didn't go Turbo - I just want to make that clear.  Going Turbo is something quite different) is just what Felix and the Niceville people needed.  Ralph needed it too.  Everyone needed to realize that Ralph has a place in the Fix-it Felix, Jr. universe.  Without Ralph (and the other bad guys in the other video games), there would be no game to play.  There would be no reason for a 30th Anniversary celebration.  Yes, he breaks windows and is generally clumsy and a big galoot - but he's a big galoot that means well and just has the misfortune of being programmed to wreck things.

This comes out in Ralph relationship with Vanellope von Schweetz - a similar misfit from the racing game Sugar Rush (which, I would play the hell out of that game if Disney decided to create and market it for real).  While Ralph and Vanellope start out as adversaries, they come to see something of themselves in each other.  Ralph watches as the other Sugar Rush racers demolish Vanellope's racer and he feels bad.  Up to that point, Vanellope's been a right pain in the assular area - but that's because she doesn't have anyone to depend on other than herself.  She doesn't have any friends because nobody wants to hang around a "glitch," so she just does without them.  Actually, she does without everybody.  Because she has to - at least, until Ralph comes along.  And they are so adorable together!

Which makes the scene [SPOILERS!] where Ralph destroys Vanellope's go-cart (the go-cart he helped Vanellope build so she could compete for a spot on the gamer's avatar board when the arcade opens again).  Ralph thinks that Vanellope's on-screen glitching will cause the gamers to think Sugar Rush is defective and it'll be shut down.  So, he has to stop it from happening because he's come to care for the kid - but that scene is one of the saddest things Disney has ever come out with (yes, even up there with Tod being left in the forest in The Fox and the Hound - I still bawl over that part).

Another great appeal of Wreck-it Ralph is that the first generation to grow up with video games (my generation) are now adults and we can look back at video games with nostalgia. Even the most casual gamer understands how video games work as a medium (and even I got the "Aerith Lives!" blink-and-you'll-miss-it Easter Egg joke).  Sure, you still have the doomsayers who predict that video games are the end of civilization as we know it (and I could go on a whole rant about that attitude, but I won't right now), but most people have at least played a round of Super Mario Bros. or Pac-Man (hell, how many people have Temple Run on their phones?)  Personally, I love that an old school 8-bit  (or is is 16-bit? I get my bits and pixels mixed up.  I never said I was a hardcore gamer) game like Fix-it Felix, Jr. coexists with a high-end graphics first-person shooter like Hero's Duty.  Rather than feel old (I mean, Fix-it Felix, Jr. is celebrating its 30th Anniversary and I remember playing games like that when I was a kid), I feel more like video games have come of age and they're now an integral part of our culture.

(Also - I LOVED how the movement of the Nicelanders was animated.  Even though the characters themselves are computer generated, they still walk and move with that jerky pixelated movement that I'm not describing very well, but if you've seen the movie you'll know what I'm talking about).

In the end, Ralph learns that his abilities as a video game bad guy are what make him endearing both to gamers and the video game characters who depend on him to create a scenario for the game they inhabit.  It's the role of a villain in anything - be it a book, a movie, a video game or any kind of fiction.  The villain is a component of the story that creates conflict that creates action that creates plot that creates story.  The Nicelanders also learn that Ralph is important to their world and even Felix embraces Ralph as a friend and a brother by the end of the movie.

If there is a message in this story, it's to embrace what makes you different from others because there is something that you can do that other's can't - be it a skill or talent or some other gift that other people don't have.  It's about being your very best self and finding what you're best at.  It's also about accepting the different things other people can do and celebrating those talents and abilities - even if they aren't immediately apparent or obviously desirable.

Who says video games aren't educational?

Also - any movie that includes this song on its soundtrack is damn good in my book! (love Owl City - If I could get my video-making software to stop being so buggy, I have a video idea for it).

1 comment:

  1. Wreck it Ralph is one of those movies that I love despite all that's working against it for me. Yeah it's a video game movie (I'm a big gamer), but it has voice talents from people I normally don't like, from John C. Rielly, to Jack McBrayer even Sarah Silverman and Jane Lynch I'm not big fans of. But the story is SO good it transcends those who brought it to life. It may be tied with my favorite Disney film, Tarzan. If nothing else it's number 2 on my movies to watch when sick to make me feel better list. After the before mentioned Tarzan and before TMNT.