Friday, November 16, 2012

Wreck-It Ralph

Wreck-It Ralph is in contention for my favorite film of the year.  I enjoyed it from beginning to end and laughed so hard at some of the jokes that I'm going to have to see it again to catch up on the dialogue I missed in between.

John C. Reilly voices Ralph, the villain in the long-standing arcade video game Fix-It Felix Jr.   One the thirtieth anniversary of the game's premiere, Ralph's frustration with his game--always being the bad guy, his isolation from the other characters in his game, the assumption of the other games that he's got to be a villain--finally causes him to crack.  He goes "game jumping," invading other games in the arcade so he can experience something new.

One of the things that works so well for Wreck-It Ralph is the familiarity of the surroundings.  Normally, I find comedy that relies too much on references to be rather stale--the jokes may be funny, but they're ultimately hollow.  I don't find this to be the case with Wreck-It Ralph.  There were references aplenty--be they to other video games or candy and sweets-related puns in the game "Sugar Rush"--but these were often used to comment on the state of the characters or even the deeper themes of potential loss and the need for acceptance.  That is to say: many of these references were used for a point beyond just making an audience laugh because of their inclusion.  

Also, they were genuinely funny.

The clever, brightly-colored style of animation did a lot not only to build the video-games world but to make clever comments on the nature of video games.  From the minor characters only able to turn at right angles to the transition to an eight-bit style depending on one's location within the game to the arcade viewer box--giving characters a chance to see outside their own games, the style of the movie enhanced the story and characterization in the movie.  The other major animated film I saw this year, Brave, may overall be a prettier film--but I could never discount the animation in Wreck-It Ralph.

Overall, this is a great film.  It will play for just about any audience--though twenty- and thirty-somethings may get an extra boost recognizing games from their childhood--telling a truly heart-warming story with surprisingly high stakes.  This is one of the few films I've seen this year that I would honestly recommend to anyone.

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