By Marc S. Sanders
Walt Disney Studios is the granddaddy of animation. No one questions that. Yet when I watch a film like Wreck-It Ralph, I am enthralled at not just the imagination of story or the eye-popping visuals, but most importantly the made-up science the film’s video game characters interact with.
There are rules in play. All arcade game personalities can schmooze with each other after hours. Cross each other’s paths at “Cross Central Station” where a Pac Man cherry is offered up to a homeless Q-Bert, and even attend a Bad Guys Anonymous Group, moderated by the orange ghost Clyde (infamous rival of Pac Man). That last bit is one of my favorite parts of the movie. So inspired to have a Satan character console a dejected hulking, overalls wearing Ralph, aka Wreck-It Ralph. He’s the villain in the arcade game known as Fix-It Felix.
One rule to watch out for though, if you die in an arcade game you normally don’t inhabit, you can die permanently. When our title character gets overanxious, that’s a threat to not only himself but other important characters like Fix It Felix Jr (Ralph’s adversary), Calhoun (a first person shoot ’em up military woman) and Ralph’s inadvertent best pal Vanelloppe (the unfortunate glitch of a candy land racing game called Sugar Rush).
The jokes are great. The vocal cast of John C Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBryer, Jane Lynch and Alan Tudyk is perfectly assorted, as if the script was written specifically with these performers in mind.
There’s a lesson to be learned, because this is a Disney movie after all. It’s a pretty good lesson in knowing to love everything about yourself, glitches and all. Thankfully, the film does not patronize and melodramatically bash it over your head.
I love the arcade 80s relatability of the games and the settings of games like Fix It Felix, Heroes Duty, and especially Sugar Rush, looking as if ideas from Willy Wonka were swiped and polished to bring chocolate mud puddles, peppermint stick trees, Nesquik quicksand, and stalactites made of Mentos that drop into a lava like pit of diet cola that molten upon impact.
Soon after Ralph almost broke the arcade, he breaks the internet in a subsequent adventure, and that’s as endlessly hilarious and fun as his feature film debut.