Disney’s latest animated film, Wreck-It Ralph, is made for those who have grown up witnessing an evolution in video games. It’s the first animated feature in years that my husband was more excited about than I was. I must admit, from the trailers I wasn’t sure how well the story or characters would hold up when so many video game characters from across the different platforms and generations all make an appearance. Thankfully, Sonic, Bowser, Clyde and other familiar game characters are only fun cameo appearances and are not our heroes
In an arcade that has been around for at least thirty years, Fix-It Felix Jr. is a classic that keeps the quarters coming. But our story takes place inside the games, where Ralph (voice by John C. Riley) is tired of only being seen a a bad guy. His job is to wreck the building while the player controls Felix (Jack McBrayer), who fixes what Ralph wrecks as fast as possible. As the rest of the game’s characters are busy celebrating thirty years of playing, Ralph is left out to be alone in his dump, as always. His attempt to join the party only ends in what he’s best at, wrecking it. Pointing out all the medals Felix has won, one of the characters bets Ralph that if he can win a medal, he can live in the penthouse.
This sends Ralph out on a quest, game jumping, or “going Turbo”, into Hero’s Duty, a high-tech first-person shooter, then accidentally into Sugar Rush, a sweet-treat themed racing game. Without Ralph, Fix-It Felix Jr. doesn’t work and is at risk for getting their plug pulled. That would land everyone in the game homeless, like poor Q*bert and his whole gang who beg in Game Central Station, which has a lot of bustling action for a power-strip.
Throughout the film we meet some fun new characters. Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch) is a hard-core, no-nonsense fighter in Hero’s Duty and later becomes the object of Felix’s affections, as they search for Ralph. In Sugar Rush, there is Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), a spunky glitchy wanna-be racer who has always been counted out, but might have a shot with Ralph’s help. But that will never happen if King Candy (Alan Tudyk) has anything to do with it.
As I watched Wreck-It Ralph in a packed theater, I noticed some of the jokes often fell to one side. At the frequent use of the word ‘duty’ and all its meanings, the kids roared repeatedly. When classic video game references came up, I could hear the adults in the theater enjoying the joke, while most of the children were lost. At one of the biggest laughs (I won’t spoil it, but it’s a Wizard of Oz reference), the little girl sitting next to me had one of those he-who-laughs-last-clearly-didn’t-get-the-joke moments.
Like I said, Wreck-It Ralph is made for those who have seen an arcade outside of Chuck E. Cheese. We recognize Fix-It Felix Jr. as a play on the original Donkey Kong, remember the Konami code and stay for the Pac-Man glitch at the very end. Kids will enjoy the film too, the new characters are made to include them, but so many hidden features will blow right over their heads. However, there is still a big heart and a story of accepting yourself as you are and something about the pixels being brighter in another game that everyone will love. The film is fun, colorful, has an engaging plot and uses all worlds of video gaming well. It deserves the Oscar nomination for best animated feature.
“They invited Pac-Man? That cherry-chasing dot-muncher?”