Achievement unlocked. Disney was already having a good week, and now they can kick back and relax as Wreck-It Ralph smashes into the box office.
Doing what Disney does best, the movie pleases lollipop-munching tots as much as it does their computer-confined parents. The story navigates from cuddly to dangerous, and heartwarming to downright immature. It’s a little too simple to keep adult audience members guessing, but remains invariably lovable despite this. Disney also coded many beloved video game character cameos to please the gaming generation, including famous faces like Super Mario’s Bowser and Sonic the Hedgehog to more obscure franchises that dedicated gamers will enjoy. Exactly how much it cost to include such a wide roster, I have no clue, but Disney doesn’t really need to worry about money, anyway.
Disproportionately-sized Ralph (John C. Reilly) is sick of his thankless job in the arcade pulverizing pixelated windows and being tossed into some mud by a mob of furious, digitized hotel guests while his friend Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer) gets all the glory. Seeking an achievement medal to prove that even the bad guys in video games can do good things, Ralph runs away from the hotel and hops into different arcade games in his quest for a better story mode.
Along the way Sarah Silverman joins the party as Vanellope Van Schweetz, a perpetually 5-year old girl in both appearance and obnoxious personality who lives in the candyland go-kart racing game Sugar Rush. Vanellope also wishes to obtain an achievement medal so she can race to be one of the game’s nine playable avatars. However, due unexpected complexities with Vanellope’s character (a surprisingly emotional plot point), King Candy (Alan Tudyk) will do anything in his sugar-manipulating powers to stop her from racing. Meanwhile, emerging from the alien/bug-infested first-person shooter game Hero’s Duty, tough-as-nails Sergeant Tamora Calhoun (Jane Lynch) must prevent the giant insects from escaping her own game before they infest others and form a virus that will shut the arcade down.
The beautifully pixelated, fluidly blocky animation spans across three stylish arcade games and various other settings, all packed with eye-grabbing effects and saturated colors. Consistent throughout the entire movie, arcade game characters remain faithful to their games’ coding: Pacman’s ghost (making a fleeting cameo in the opening support group scene for video game villains) can only move in the four basic directions, and citizens from Ralph’s game Fix-It Felix move their bodies one limb at a time, for example. A completely unnecessary but hilarious addition to the film.
Even though I only saw a very short amount in 3D (the theater I was in randomly turned off the effects five minutes into the film after I paid the additional 3D price, which I’m still raging about), I saw enough to know I missed out big time. There’s no point in being impressed by animated films’ visuals anymore, because each time you think a movie can’t be topped (like Brave and Paranorman just a few months ago, cough cough), the very next one that comes along is even better. For those keeping track, right now I’d say Ralph holds the Wreckord for best visuals. At least until the next animated film rolls along.
I’m debating on whether or not I should feel guilty that I enjoyed the movie so much. The film is dominantly aimed for children (it contains a two minute montage of a hyperactive child learning to drive a go-kart made of sweets in a diet soda volcano set to Rihanna’s “Shut Up and Drive,” in case you were wondering what kind of movie it is). It’s filled with donuts dressed as policemen and juvenile candy puns (the most intelligently offensive of which probably involves Laffy Taffy, which is better seen than discussed). But don’t be confused by the sugary scenery or all the cold 1s and 0s – the movie’s crowning achievement is its heart.
So, do I feel guilty for seeing a movie set mainly in a land made of sugar and overflowing with pop music and poop jokes? No, actually. And neither should you. Video game junkies, children, and anyone who used to be a child can appreciate the variety of sweet surprises the movie has to offer, modern or nostalgic. And the casting for the four lead characters could not have been chosen better. Right now I’m secretly hoping for a sequel equipped with a few more power-ups (let’s see some of the real video game characters get involved in the action next time!). But for now, as the Owl City track asks when credits roll, when can I see it again?