I’ll admit I’m not the biggest fan of animated films. As a single, 30-something male I just don’t think I fall into the target demographic. I roll my eyes at the usual cast of disgustingly cute characters and find myself bored by the simple storylines. But every now and then, I find one that totally engrosses me. It’s rare, but it does happen. I really enjoyed “Aladdin” way back in college, and recently enjoyed both “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille.” It’s probably because I could closely relate to their themes of adventure, comic books and food. What dude doesn’t like those?
So I guess it was only natural that I’d find “Wreck-It Ralph” wonderfully entertaining. Why? Because it’s about video games, and I grew up playing them. A lot. I know I’m aging myself here, but I started off like every other kid with Space Invaders and Donkey Kong, then moved on to Moon Cresta, Galaga, Xevious and Dig Dug. Remember seeing kids using a plastic comb or chopsticks to build up speed for Track and Field? That was me. Then the fighting games came along, and I was crazy about Street Fighter II and to a lesser extent, Mortal Kombat. So it’s no wonder that “Wreck-It Ralph” would automatically appeal to me.
Not only did I find it really cool that many characters from past video games popped up on screen (will have to buy the Bluray later to pause and actually look for all the characters), but the main story itself is an entertaining tale of both self esteem and social status. These themes are not unfamiliar territory for Disney films, but I really liked how they incorporated the video games into the story this time.
The trailers focus on the title character of Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly), the bad guy in a popular 30-year old video game called Fix It Felix, Jr. But although he’s featured heavily in the first half of the film, the story eventually shifts its attention to Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), a wannabe racer in a girly racing game called Sugar Rush. It’s when these two characters are together that the film really reveals its soul as they both seek acceptance in their video game societies. I’ve always found Silverman to be borderline annoying, but she does a great job of balancing both cuteness and sarcasm in her voiceover work that really made Vanellope likable. Supporting characters include Jack McBrayer as Felix, basically playing a video game version of his character from “30 Rock,” and Jane Lynch as Calhoun, a rough and tough soldier from a game called Heroes Duty.
The animation is also a visual feast as each video game setting provides a distinct world from the 8-bit rough animation of Ralph’s world (I especially loved the jumpy character movements) to the war savaged land of Hero’s Duty and finally ending in the vibrant, colorful world of Sugar Rush. The 3D is also well done, but not a necessity. The film would look just as great in 2D.
So while I don’t normally find myself enthralled by the animation genre, I will definitely be buying “Wreck-It Ralph” on Bluray so I can experience both the nostalgia and visual wonders again at home.
Also, the short film “Paper Man” shown in front of “Wreck-It Ralph” is by far my favorite Disney short so far. No words, just sweet romance. Loved it.
“Wreck-It Ralph,” 108 minutes, is Rated PG and opens in theaters today.