Paying homage to the extensive world of video games past and present, “Wreck-It Ralph” is a true contender for most original animated film of the year.
“Wreck-It Ralph” leads with an animated short appropriately named “Paperman,” an affectionately contrived boy-meets-girl tale that masterfully mixes CG with hand-drawn animation. Drawn in black-and-white, ‘Paperman’ evokes the magic and romance of classic Walt Disney Studios, while maintaining a relatable and encouraging verisimilitude. As a precursor to “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Paperman” immediately and excellently sets the plucking of audience heartstrings in motion.
In the feature film, Ralph (John C. Reilly), notoriously known as Wreck-It Ralph, is the ascribed bad guy of the classic (and fictional) video game, “Fix-It Felix, Jr.” Growing weary of constantly being overshadowed and under-appreciated by both the game’s hero, Felix (Jack McBrayer), and the rest of its characters for the past 30 years, Ralph goes on a journey through the land of arcade games to prove that he can be a hero, too.
The voices of the main characters are suited to a tee.Reilly is at his best as Ralph — an overlooked, overshadowed, sympathetic man who is simply looking for a break and a little love. Fix-It Felix is embodied by Jack McBrayer, who is smitten with ‘Hero’s Duty’ bad-ass heroine, Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch). One exemption from the brilliant cast is Sarah Silverman as Vanellope VonSchweetz, a young girl known only as a glitch in the game “Sugar Rush.” The concept of Vanellope’s character is to be annoying, yet endearing. However, Silverman’s grating, squeaky voice manages to produce more of an irritating effect than an empathetic one. Fortunately, Silverman’s character is not so distracting that it takes away from the ingenuity and merit of the film itself.
The overall concept of the film is novel in the sense that its focus is a question of natural and moral make-up of a video game character. Video game icons live lives outside of their designated arenas, hopping from one game to another to interact with each other until the arcade opens every morning. Quirky scenes include Ralph finding solace (along with many other characters) in the world of “Tapper,” a 1983 game that’s sole purpose is to serve customers beer and collect tips in a timely fashion.
The time has certainly arrived for mainstream media outlets such as Disney to recognize the impact and presence video games now have in everyday life. Audience members young and old will revel in the nostalgia that floods the screen in “Wreck-It Ralph.” Cameos include Sonic the Hedgehog and Pac-Man. Even Q-Bert, from the early 80s pyramid-jumping game, plays a small but significant role. The film also does an excellent job of honoring the evolution and development of more modern video games by including “Hero’s Duty.”
Though the concept of “Wreck-It Ralph” is original, audience members may either be content or disappointed by the ending. How the film carries the plot won’t be new to the viewer, but lends itself to a classic Disney twist. Satisfaction with the ending guaranteed or not, the film is a pleasant ride both visually and emotionally. “Wreck-It Ralph” is an animated flick gamers and non-gamers will certainly enjoy and revere – it’s a film that is sure to create a buzz.
Speakeasy Rating: A-
Starring John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch and Sarah Silverman
Rated PG for some rude humor and mild action/violence