Thursday, February 28, 2013

Wreck-it Ralph (2012)

Directed by: Rich Moore
Runtime: 108 Mins.

Let me start off by saying that "Wreck-it Ralph" is NOT a Pixar film. I was kinda surprised to hear that some people were confused by this.  "Wreck-it Ralph" was made by the other studio that makes Disney films, that one that goes by the name of Walt Disney Animation Studios.  They have produced a mix bag that contains 2007's "Meet the Robinsons" which was not very good, and quite clearly beneath the quality of Pixar's films, but then in 2010 they made "Tangled" which I was pleasantly surprised by, and in 2012 "Wreck-it Ralph."  Clearly their quality of films is going up.

Wreck-it Ralph is about Ralph,  the villain of a game in which Ralph smashes a building and then the player must fix it by controlling Fix-It Felix Jr. weilding his fix-everything-in-one-hit hammer.  Let me stop here to mention that this film is not just for gamers.  People who have played plenty of video games over the years may appreciate the appearance of some of the characters and the electronic/video-gamey sounding music a bit more, but let me make this clear, this is a film for anyone who likes animated films.

The fact that the film takes place inside video games, and often travels from one to another, allows for interesting and varied landscapes and graphics making this one of the more unique animated films out there.

You can make comparisons to Monsters Inc. which also had characters that were able to see humans when necessary, but when they weren't working they existed in a bit of a home world outside of existence. A place no human has ever been to, almost a hub world in between worlds (or in this case game-worlds).  When the arcade closes and all the humans go home, what is left for the game characters to do? They can walk out of their game through the power cord into this hub world and into other game worlds if they like, so they can hangout with other game characters.  The characters are all essentially actors fulfilling roles, but as we see with Ralph, there is more to these characters than their in-game persona.  Too bad the other characters from Ralph's own game world don't realize it.

Inside this land between lands there is a club for game villains who all seem to be in a state of depression over the fact that they are villains.  It's a support group to keep them encouraged enough to remain villainous, but it doesn't seem to be working for Ralph.  He wants more from life, and it's not hard to see why. In his game-world he always loses, and gets thrown off the top of the building.  At the end of the day Fix-It Felix and all the building's residence hang out in their penthouse on the top floor and have a party, which Ralph is not invited to.  Ralph has to spend much of his time alone and his house is a pile of dirt and garbage.

Recognizable characters from many different game franchises populate the land between games.
The story is fairly complicated and would take a long time to explain all of it, so I'll try to shorten it. Ralph wants to become the hero himself, and all he needs to prove he is a hero is a medal. To get his medal he decides to take the place of a character from a game called Hero's Duty (call of duty reference anyone?) in which the player tries to shoot up a bunch of creatures called Cybugs and if they win they get the Medal of Heroes (Medal of Honor anyone?).  He does win and gets his medal, but through a series of accidents ends up flying out of the game and crash landing in another game called Sugar Rush, a girly, cutesy, candy-themed cart racer game.

Inside this game a girl named Vanellope takes his medal, thinking its a coin, which is the cost of admission to partake in the races that happen in Sugar Rush.  Of course, Ralph wrecks the starting line area stopping the race.  Turns out in order to get his medal back he has to help Vanellope win the race, and if he doesn't get back to his own game by morning the game will be labeled out of order and unplugged for good.  Afterall, how can Fix-It Felix Jr. fix the building if it hasn't been wrecked to begin with.  There is a lot more to it, but for the sake of not spoiling everything, and writing a novel to explain it all, I'll leave you to watch the rest.

This is a fun film. It is a visual treat beyond your average animated film. Some of the characters move in the jumpy graphical way they did in the older video games, and there are many retro video-gamey sound effects as well.  It also has some great music (especially if you grew up playing some of these games, or games like them).  This film had me laughing out loud at times, and it does have some clever, witty dialogue.  I liked the soundtrack a lot, with one exception, and it's probably my only complaint about the film. It features a Rihanna song, which is highly out of place, not just within the rest of the film's soundtrack, but within the world the characters inhabit.  Maybe you can chalk it up to me just not liking that music to begin with, but it was maybe the one moment that took me out of the film.  Either way it's a minor complaint in what is a good film overall.

This film should have won the Academy Award for best animated film.  I can't help but feel as though the award seems to go to Pixar by default now, and granted usually they are right for having given them to Pixar films, but not in this case. "Brave" was at best only an average film.  After Wall-e and Up (two films I liked very much), Brave was a disappointment.  It wasn't really funny, when it was supposed to be and while the moral was fine, it sadly wouldn't have happened if Merida hadn't gone against her mother's wishes and turned her into a bear.  I'm not sure that's a good message.  And the final message we were left with was that Merida didn't like the traditions of her people, so she fought the system till they made her an honorary boy... another message that isn't exactly bad, but isn't exactly good either.

Perhaps last year wasn't a strong year for animated films, but the bottom line is, Wreck-It Ralph is a stronger film than Brave, and maybe the one standout in 2012.  It should have won the Oscar, and you should watch it.

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