“Wreck-it Ralph” Review: A Great World Built Around Video Games

Wreck-it+Ralph+Review%3A+A+Great+World+Built+Around+Video+Games

By Wesley Emblidge

Ralph in Disney’s “Wreck-it Ralph”

I don’t really play video games that much. Maybe to pass time, I’ll play some game on my phone here and there, but I don’t have an Xbox or a Playstation or anything like that. However just because I don’t play them that much, I still know about games, gaming culture, and a lot of classic video game characters; I know who Mario is; I know what Pac-Man looks like; I’ve seen people play Call of Duty. Still, my knowledge isn’t as extensive as most gamers, and so I worried that I might not enjoy “Wreck-it Ralph,” Disney’s new film inspired by video games, as much as people who play these games all the time. I was so wrong. Director Rich Moore and the writing team of Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston have managed to craft a film that builds and plays with a really great, creative world better than any animated film in recent memory.

Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) is the bad guy in a retro video game called “Fix-It Felix.” Ralph has been playing the villain for 30 years, and after the arcade closes every night, and the good characters of the game are having parties, he’s off sleeping alone at a dump. Ralph wants to be a part of the group, but whenever he tries he is shot down. One of the citizens in the apartment building he’s supposed to wreck tells him he’s a bad guy, he’ll never be a good guy or win a medal, and if he does he can come back here. So, Ralph leaves his game and sets out into “game central station” to travel into a few other games and try to win a medal and be accepted by the others in “Fix-It Felix.”

Where the movie really succeeds and goes above most animated fare is the great, immersive world of the arcade that the characters go through. All the characters travel through power cords to the “game central station” where they can travel to other games. During the night, the different games act as a variety of hangouts. That place in Pac-Man where the ghosts are at the start? At night the bad guys from the games meet for an alcoholics anonymous-esque “Bad-Anon” group, where Ralph confesses his dreams of more than being just a bad guy. Another game is a bar where Ralph meets a guy from the game “Hero’s Duty,” the first game he visits on his journey to win a metal. Really the best part of the world building is how the movie listens to that old rule of “show not tell,” so much of the world is explained visually rather than characters outright telling you about it, which makes it all the more fun.

Most kids movies don’t aspire to more than fart jokes and talking animals, and “Wreck-it Ralph” may have a fart joke or two, but still is so heartfelt and entertaining that it’s few moments of childlike humor are okay. It’s not the best animated movie I’ve seen this year (“ParaNorman” still keeps that title) but it’s miles above most of the rest.

4/5 Stars