We primarily review games here on GamerSushi, but every now and then, a movie comes out that appeals to the gamer zeitgeist enough that it deserves a review of its own. While Wreck-It Ralph, the new animated feature from Disney isn’t based on a video game, it has more than enough video game references that it practically screams for attention from the gamer community. Which we are granting with this review.
Wreck-It Ralph is the story of Ralph, voiced by John C. Reilly who is the villain in a Donkey Kong-like arcade game called Fix-It Felix. Ralph’s job in his game is to smash the windows of a tall building and then climb to the top, throwing bricks at Felix as he tries to fix the windows and reach the top, saving the residents of the building from Ralph’s destructive rage. Once Felix has done so, Ralph is summarily tossed off the building into the muddy ground below while Felix is awarded a medal. After 30 years of this, Ralph is fed up with his lot in life. He is ostracized by Felix and the residents, resigned to living in a nearby dump (literally) with nothing but bricks as his bed. He longs to be a hero, but as his support group of video game villains tells him, that’s just not possible.
Ralph, dejected, abandons his game and tries to find a game where he could win a medal of his own. He travels to a Halo/Mass Effect-esque shooter called Hero’s Duty and from there to a candy-themed Mario Kart-type racer called Sugar Rush. Hero’s Duty is the home of an intense action sequence, complete with dubstep and FPS references. It really didn’t do much for me, apart from the always brilliant voice acting of Jane Lynch, AKA, Coach Sylvester from Glee. Her acidic tones and sardonic putdowns are a highlight.
Despite all the game references, the movie lags (get it?) at the start, but once Ralph enters the world of Sugar Rush, things pick up quickly with the introduction of the real star of the film, Vanellope, voiced adorably by Sarah Silverman. Vanellop is a racer in Sugar Rush, but she isn’t allowed to race because she is a glitch: a broken part of the game that doesn’t function properly. The ruler of Sugar Rush, King Candy, won’t allow her to race for fear of the game being labeled broken if a player sees Vanellope’s glitches. Unlike other characters, Vanellope can’t leave her game due to her glitchiness. Together, Vanellope and Ralph work together, with a few missteps along the way, to solve both their problems and live happily every after. You know the routine.
The thing about Vanellope is that she is hilarious. I was really starting to worry about the movie, but when she showed up, it’s like the movie kicked into another gear. The puns (of which there are many) were super clever, the design of the world, especially the race track in Sugar Rush, was inspired. So much so that I actually thought to myself, “I would love to play a racer like this.” The supporting cast all do a great job, with special mention to Alan Tudyk as King Candy, who is part of the funniest “You wouldn’t hit a guy with glasses, would you?” joke I have ever seen. The wit starst coming fast and furious and there were many moments where I silently applauded the cleverness of the humor and the way the story wraps back around to ideas set up earlier in film. By the end, I was genuinely touched by the story and characters.
On to the game stuff: The support group Ralph attends is a who’s who of famous villains, ranging from Bowser, Robotnik (from Sonic), M. Bison, Zangief and even Kano from Mortal Kombat, who actually pulls the heart out of a zombie at one point. I never thought I would see a fatality in a Disney movie, but it happened. The video game references and cameos are numerous with everything from Sheng Long, Metal Gear Solid and even the Konami code getting a shout out. The entire movie is filled with Easter eggs that any gamer would appreciate, but it doesn’t detract from the movie at all. The world of video games is the backdrop of Wreck-It Ralph and it feels fully realized and not shoehorned in. This movie was clearly made by people who have a love for video games and it shows.
I don’t want to spoil the movie by revealing more than I already have, but suffice it to say that the movie is worth checking out. It starts slow, but picks up steam and by the end, I was fully invested in the characters and story, which is saying something since I originally went to see it as more of a curiosity about the game references. Despite initial misgivings, there is a very good movie here for the whole family, but if you are a gamer, you will get more out of it than anyone else. Just go with friends who are also gamers or you might be the only one laughing at certain parts like I was. Though it is not based on an actual video game, Wreck-Ralph is probably the best video game movie yet. Faint praise to be sure, but don’t let that keep you from missing out on this delight.
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