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Wreck-It Ralph Review


RATING:
(3.5 STARS)

Though Disney owns Pixar, the two animation studios work autonomously, and the latter has simply dominated the former over the last decade or so. Wreck-It Ralph—Disney’s latest—represents a giant, candy-colored momentum swing back toward Mickey Mouse and company. Disney still isn’t winning the battle; Pixar’s track record is just too strong. But compare Wreck-It Ralph to Brave—hell, compare Wreck-It Ralph to any animated film since Toy Story 3—and you’ll recognize what a grand accomplishment it is.

The title character (voice of John C. Reilly) is, by profession, a “bad guy” inside the world of the fictional arcade game Fix-It Felix, Jr. He wrecks things; Felix (voice of Jack McBrayer) fixes them. As a result, Felix gets a gold medal every day from the citizens of Niceland, while Ralph gets thrown off a building into a puddle of mud.

He attends meetings with fellow “bad guys,” but that’s not enough for Ralph. He yearns for acceptance, but he fumbles the ball when given an opportunity. So a Nicelander gives him a challenge: Earn a medal and Ralph can move into the penthouse of their building. But only good guys can win medals, so Ralph needs a miracle to change his life.

Director Rich Moore (best known for directing episodes of The Simpsons and Futurama) takes us into other enthralling video game worlds including Hero’s Duty—where intergalactic soldiers fight vicious space bugs to win a Hero’s Medal—and Sugar Rush—where young girls and their King Candy (voice of Alan Tudyk) race go-karts around a world made entirely of sweets. We also get glimpses at “Game Central Station,” the hub where every game in the arcade meets.

These places are visually stunning and supremely clever. Sonic, Pac-Man, and Qbert make cameos, and we’re also introduced to fully fleshed-out new characters including Ralph, Felix, Vanellope Von Sweetums (a shunned Sugar Rush racer with a tendency to “glitch”), and Calhoun (the not-quite-but-almost-fearless leader of the Hero’s Duty squadron).

The animation-style fully embraces the film’s fun premise. It’s a little choppy, very blocky, but in a retro, Space Invaders-like way. Characters skip and jump like they would in Super Mario Bros. A little more consistency would have worked the film wonders; It’s a little distracting when characters from the same game look and behave in such different ways. By and large, though, Wreck-It Ralph is one of the brightest, fastest, and most visually interesting films of the year.

Bonus: The film extra sweet. Not in a candy way, though God knows there’s more than enough candy on display here. Rather, the relationship between Ralph and Vanellope will tickle your heart, despite the latter being just the slightest bit irritating. One gets the same feeling when it comes to the relationship between Felix and Calhoun, just to a lesser degree. It’s played more for comic relief than anything else, but because Calhoun was programmed with “the saddest backstory ever,” it sticks emotionally, as well.

Wreck-It Ralph won’t be in the running for a screenplay nod this Oscar season, but it should be. Its premise is ingenious—something you’d expect only Pixar could dream up—and it lives up to its promise with near-perfect execution. It runs a little long and has a few too many loose ends to keep track of, but Wreck-It Ralph is simply overflowing with charm.

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