Directed by Rich Moore
Written by Phil Johnston & Jennifer Lee
Disney Animation Studios are synonymous with great movies. It has gone through many different “eras”, some great, some not so great. It is hard to tell where they are these days in the wake of the output of Pixar and all of those great films. The last few films put out by Disney (Winnie the Pooh, Tangled, The Princess & the Frog) have been pretty good films in my opinion. Not the greatest, not to live up with the masterpieces in the Disney catalogue, but certainly worthy of the company. When I first saw the previews for Wreck-It Ralph, I had high hopes. What a great concept for a film, and the perfect medium to be able to tell it. It isn’t the typical princess movie, and it isn’t hand-drawn to bring back memory of any golden years. if anything, its computer animation and storytelling are all set up to compete on level ground with that other Disney subsidiary, Pixar.
I hate to compare, so I will stop now, but what we have here is just a good story about a guy who is a little bit different, and perhaps a little bit underappreciated, who is struggling to accept himself in the world (of video games). Wreck-It Ralph (voiced perfectly by John C. Reilly) is the “villain” in the arcade game Fix-It Felix Jr. (voiced by Jack McBrayer). Ralph wrecks the building so the player can fix it using Felix. His purpose is to play the bad guy, and he is a necessary evil, but Ralph is getting tired of being hated for doing his job just like everyone else in the game. So one day, Ralph doesn’t show up. Instead, he begins to game jump and attempt to win a medal as a good guy. But in the process he upsets the status of not only his game, but another, wherein he meets a young glitch (voiced by Sarah Silverman) struggling to be accepted in her game. They bond to fix her glitch and get Ralph back in time to save his own game from being unplugged.
A movie like this is an ingenious concept that has been masterfully brought to life in the form of a great screenplay and a great animated film. Setting an animated film in the world of video games is like a kid in a candy store when it comes to the possible visuals and worlds they can create. Dream it up and it can come to life. And what beautiful animation this film does feature! And to boot, setting the film in the land of the video games brings a new element to the equation for the presumed parent watching alongside their children. For what has been dubbed Generation X and beyond, video games are huge part of pop culture and there are plenty of great references featured in this film for parents to enjoy and appreciate. The use of the video game platform to tell this story is the perfect place for such a story in this day and age, even if, and maybe especially if, as the arcade and arcade games are going more in the way of the graveyard.
At the heart of every good Disney film is a good message for the children to take home with them, even if they only subconsciously receive that message. This time they spin a touching tale about the struggle of accepting yourself for who you are, even if that means you’re not one of the popular kids, because in reality, we are all necessary, we all matter, and what makes us ourselves is what makes us interesting, what makes us unique. And who would want to be anything but themselves, right? The screenwriters build such a strong team between Ralph and little Vanellope, the atypical Disney princess. Discard the crown and embrace the outcast. It is not unique to this film, nor to Disney itself in the animated genre, but there is something to be said when the concept is done in such an imaginative and effective way.
When Walt Disney first started making cartoons, imagination was the heart and soul of the operation that took a mouse and made him famous. From then on, the minds of young people and adults alike were able to take a short time to enjoy the entertaining fables presented by Disney. Wreck-It Ralph continues in that vein and does the company proud, continuing what has been a really solid string on films in the last few years. And it accomplishes this task by casting a spectacular voice cast led by the incomparable John C. Reilly, and by tapping into that part of the brain that controls the imagination in all of us, and there really isn’t much more to be ask for when it comes to a good animated film. The awesome visuals are just an added bonus to what was already a great film. Can’t wait to see Frozen next fall!