Wreck-it-Ralph. With plenty of video game nostalgia and Disney and Pixar love, I think I was as excited to see this film as the kids were. From the trailers we knew the premise to be centered on the villain (Ralph) of an old ~80s era video game called Fix it Felix Jr. The game is similar to Donkey Kong with the single screen platforming action, the villain at the top causing destruction and the hero racing up the building to conquer him. Ralph is frustrated that he's always the "bad guy" and thus feels like a bit of an outsider and wants to do something heroic. He even goes to a "Bad Guys Anonymous" meeting to discuss his frustration. So he starts "game jumping" and chaos and hilarity ensue.
The high level premise seems kind of fun on the surface but a little trite. I was a little nervous that it would face-plant much in the way of other "video game movies" from the past (I'm looking at you Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Doom, Super Mario Bros., etc…they had twinges of fun but certainly weren't "all that"). Fortunately the execution was better than the sugary glaze promised by the trailers. I suspect part of the success lies in having John Lasseter on board as part of the production team. Lasseter headed up creative control for Pixar for many years and I'm glad to see his creative force and vision applied to the core Disney Animation concepts. Not that there have been "awful" Disney films in the past decades…but they've certainly been overshadowed by their siblings at Pixar (and even competitor studios like Dreamworks).
The impetus for Ralph's escapades comes not just from dissatisfaction but also from contention between him and the other characters. He feels awkward, out of place and snubbed. One of the other characters in his game says (somewhat sarcastically) that Ralph could hang out with them if he was able to win a medal like Felix has. With that goal in mind, Ralph sets off to get a medal from some other game.
Halo, Gears of War and others). He's quickly overwhelmed and terrified by the game (as shown in the trailer he comments "when did video games get so violent?"). Still, he has his goal in sight so he pushes on in spite of causing one problem after another. Before long, he's caused plenty of problems in Hero's Duty and in Game Central, Ralph crash lands in a Kart racing game called Sugar Rush.
The cameos of video game characters, environments, concepts and music was a lot of fun for an old-school video game lover. I'm curious to grab the DVD release and see if it helps identify and point out some of the background characters who were less than obvious but certainly there. I had a lot of fun panning the crowd in various sweeping shots and seeing cameos from a variety of characters.
In case you hadn't guessed, I really did like this movie. Is it my favorite animated movie lately? Probably not. But it was definitely very well done and I certainly wouldn't mind seeing it again and I feel comfortable recommending it to families, gamers or anybody who loves fun animated flicks.
4 out of 5 stars
NOTE: As a P.S. for those of you who like to stay after the credits, there IS a very small stinger at the end of the reel. It is very small and might not be worth your while to stick around (especially if you've got kids itching to get to the restroom) but I just wanted to give a heads up to "completionists" out there. Really, some of the animation going on right at the start of the credits is more noteworthy than the post-credit stinger. :)