Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.

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Wreck-It Ralph

Film #259

THE PLOT

A video game villain wants to be a hero and sets out to fulfill his dream, but his quest brings havoc to the whole arcade where he lives.

Year 1, Day 258

BEFORE: Although this film was never officially part of my animation chain (because it wasn’t out on DVD yet), I’m still counting it as a leftover. This film is of course Wreck-It Ralph, also known as the film I picked as the winner of this year’s Best Animated Feature but lost to Brave. The only reason I didn’t pick this as my most deserving was simply because I hadn’t seen it. Now I’m getting that chance and will be able to see if it really should have won. I’ve been hearing nothing but good things this week leading up to my viewing so I’m extremely optimistic.

AFTER: My initial impression of the film going in was that Wreck-It Ralph would be the Toy Story of video games. After watching the film, I think this comparison is quite apt. Not only does it create it’s own unique world based on video game characters (something Toy Story did very well with childhood toys), but it also uses the animation genre to it’s advantage and great success.

What Wreck-It Ralph does best is creating a highly detailed and complex world for the characters to inhabit. More so than with the other animated films, where I praised highly the characters and the value they brought to their films, in Wreck-It Ralph it’s more than that. You still have great entertaining and relatable characters, but here they aren’t the focus. The highlight of the film is the environment they live in, their interactions with this environment, and the chemistry between the characters themselves. Right from the beginning your are intrigued. What if your favorite video games were all connected and the characters had separate lives after the players went home for the night. It’s like an exact copy of Toy Story (what happens if physical toys come to life when their owner isn’t around). But don’t misread being an exact copy as being something bad. Wreck-It Ralph is it’s own unique film with rules of it’s own.

In the first five to ten minutes you learn how things operate. How is it characters can go to other games, what controls them, and how are their actions limited? So while there are a lot of things you need to suspend your disbelief for, the reasons are acceptable because everything is clearly explained very early on. As you get into the conflict and the purpose of the film, you find yourself completely engrained and invested. Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) trying to fit in, Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) wanting to participate in her first race, and Fix-It Felix Jr. (Jack McBrayer) and Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch) fighting the infection of Cy-Bugs. You see the worlds of Fix-It Felix Jr., Hero’s Duty, and Sugar Rush. Each of these components individually aren’t the cream of the crop; really stand-out and memorable from other films. But when they’re all combined and placed into one package, as Wreck-It Ralph does, you get something extraordinary.

Another element to all of this is the animation and the style of the film. It’s not something radically different than what you normally see (like The Secret of Kells was), but it’s still different in its own way. It pays homage to the wide variety of video games used throughout the film. There are eight-bit elements, traditional 3D elements, and many interesting things choices for visual components, or the production design. It’s very Pixar-esque (like Toy Story) in that it’s littered with references, but Wreck-It Ralph takes it a step further - and that’s a good thing. Visual elements (like Nesquik Sand, Diet Coke/Mentos, and the infamous Nintendo cheat code) and audible elements (like the Darth Vader breath and the many effects from character’s respective games) not only add a comical element and connection point for the audience (something Rango did incredibly well), but it fits in with the style of the film. The tone is quite dark but the style is much lighter and almost cartoon-esque.

Everything about Wreck-It Ralph is fantastic; from the animation to the story, characters, and most importantly, the world they inhabit. From beginning to end your introduced to, learn about, and care for a whole new universe that we’ve never seen before - and that’s something very difficult to do. Before my final concluding thoughts, I’d like to briefly mention the ending specifically. It’s a great wrap-up to the film: not too much summarization and a healthy dash of heart-warming, emotional sentiments. Look back a bit to my Oscar predictions and you’ll notice I had Wreck-It Ralph as most likely to win Best Animated Feature with Brave being most deserving, the reason being it was the only one of the animated films I had seen. Now having watched Wreck-It Ralph not only do I think it was most likely (which apparently the Academy didn’t agree with), but it was also most deserving. Wreck-It Ralph should have won the Oscar.

RATING: 5 out of 5