Saturday, November 3, 2012

He's Not Bad. He Was Programmed That Way

One day, he thought it doesn't have to be that way anymore.

Wreck-It Ralph sounds like a Pixar movie. It's the video game version of Who Framed Roger Rabbit, with every character you remember from hours of Nintendo, Atari and eventually Playstation.

However, it's Walt Disney Animation who produced this great animated film. Ralph, the long-time bad guy of Fix-It Felix Jr., wants a little respect, and a medal. So, he heads off to other video game realms for a new life. After getting a medal in a first-person shooter game, it gets stolen by a bratty girl in another video game that's 90 percent sugar and ten percent anime. Turns out this girl also has a problem: she's not allowed to race in her own game because she's a glitch (as in a mistake). She thinks the medal will get her in the race, and later respect. So, these misfits join forces to make their dreams come true. Simple, no?

Well, the movie is much more than that. While battling big bugs in the shooter game Hero's Duty, he brings back one that could zap every game in the arcade. The story also adds a dark secret that really propels the story in the final 30 minutes. Two words: going Turbo.

Let's get to what happens in the movie. It's spolierish, so be careful.

Ralph feels blue because everybody in Nicetown love Fix-It Felix because he fixes Ralph's messes. But Ralph was made to wreck, and he wants the town would give him some respect. It's all a game. They know that. They even move in herky-jerky ways like early Donkey Kong, since it's still 1983 to them. Even in the other games, the bad and good guys at Street Fighter share a drink or two at Tappers...the video game.
Not in Nicetown. Felix gets all the praise, and they don't want Ralph around because they're afraid he'll wreck stuff. He does during the game's anniversary party, but it's not deliberate. It's just him. It's their attitude towards Ralph that convinces him to go to another game. They'll soon find out how important Ralph really is.

His visit to Bad-Anon, a support group for other "bad guys", is also classic. Where else can Clyde from Pac-Man, Bowser from Super Mario Brothers, M. Bison from Street Fighter and a zombie from House of the Dead hold hands and so affirmations. When you see Game Central Station, there's lot of characters..AND an eternal Pong game. There's even a PSA from Sonic the Hedgehog.

It's also a hoot seeing Ralph way out of his comfort zone, and in a major league shooter game. Even he wonders when video games got so violent. Calhoun, played by a bad-ass looking Jane Lynch, is tough as nails. She has to be, considering she had the most tragic video game back story ever. Seeing her with Felix while they look for Ralph has got to be the strangest love story in years..and much better than the flesh-and-blood kind.

Naturally, the movie has some product placements. While they are cheesy, especially in one scene in the Sugar Rush section, they do work. One of them is key to the whole film.

What sells this film is the relationshp between Ralph and Vanellope, a/k/a John C. Reilly and Sarah Silverman. His voice is made for animation. Silverman is wonderful because her character has a lot of her. We see that she's more of an outcast in her game than Ralph is. Why that's the case is a bigger surprise.
We also see that bullies can come in all packages: either bulky like Ralph or way too pretty like the other racers in Sugar Rush. They both do the same thing to Vanellope, and the girls look much worse than Ralph does.

A big surprise, especially for Browncoats out there, is Alan Tudyk (yep, that Firefly, Dollhouse and Suburgatory guy) as the Candy King. He has the Ed Wynn-style goofiness cold. He may look like a goofy guy who loves to race, but don't be fooled. This guy is part of the new breed of Disney villain: kid friendly on the outside, dark on the inside. Think "Lots O'Huggin Bear" from Toy Story 3. This is revealed when Candy King tries to convince Ralph to stop Vanellope from racing, arguing that her glitching could threaten the existence of the game itself. It's fairly convincing, and leads to the saddest scenes in the film. However, when Ralph sees the outside of the Sugar Rush game, we figure out Candy King is way too bitter to be sweet.

Disney Animation has a winner in Wreck-It Ralph, which may be a big hit through Thanksgiving. It would be great if we see Ralph in other games, like maybe NFL 13 as the entire offensive line of any NFL team. Vanellope in the Indy 500 or NASCAR? That's a winner, right?

Before that, Ralph could make a mark at the Oscars in the animation race. It maybe between him and Brave, which I suspect will get more respect as we get closer to nomination time. The DVD is coming pretty soon, and people will get another chance to look at the movie. It's been interesting: Pixar made a movie that would be a Disney fairy tale, while Disney animation made something that looks like a Pixar film.

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