I actually had to see this one twice before I decided to review it. Not because it isn’t fantastic, it most assuredly is. Just because I wasn’t really sure HOW to review it. What to say about a kid’s movie that doesn’t entirely seem to have a point except to charm the damn pants off of you (which it does)? Well, upon the second viewing I discovered that there WERE some messages this movie had to throw at us as big kids, or kids, or whoever the hell you want to take with you to see this movie, because everyone should see it. Because it’s wonderful, but I already told you that in my headline now, didn’t I? Before I get into the plot of this one, which, with a kids movie often takes a backseat to the whimsical characters you will see on screen and this movie is no different, I have to say something. We are in a renaissance of children’s movies, my friends. A true golden age. Of course it all started with PIXAR and the insane mad geniuses they have working over there – Up is not only arguably the best animated film that has ever been made, it’s also one of the best films ever MADE, PERIOD. Yes it is in my top 10, yes I will review it someday. But c’mon now – you got Tangled, which was the actual last official Disney movie before this one. You got Tintin, which was much like an animated Indiana Jones (the GOOD Indiana Jones…), no small feat. How to Train Your Dragon, Secret World of Arriety, Despicable Me which I have seen well over 50 times because it was my go-to movie during my short lived career at a video store, and to the lesser extents, your Megaminds and Loraxes even. They are all fantastic in their own right, and if you have a kid, you got an excuse to go see all these cinematic greats, but I’d go see them anyways. Wreck it Ralph continues this long tradition of this kids movie renaissance we are in, and you know what, it’s also in the upper echelon of classic children movies with Despicable Me (which is getting a completely unnecessary sequel next year, but that’s neither here nor there…) and Tangled – it’s really that good. Here’s why.
So at the heart of this movie is these two characters, who are both incredibly charming and you will walk out of the theater loving them both. I think this is John C. Reillys’ first animated movie, and he is just about the most diverse guy in cinema. He has played in two absolutely hilarious movies with his real life pal Will Ferrell, he’s played a lunatic criminal (in a movie named well…Criminal), he’s played the sadsack loser with the last shot at love, his roles have really run the gamut, and that’s commendable that he branches out like that and is willing to try new things. Hell, dude even sings a bit. This movie is pretty much a paycheck for him, just like any animated movies with big voice talent are, but he does a great job of actually channeling that same sadsack loser that he played in Cyrus. Except this time he plays it as a video game bad guy, sort of like a different take on donkey kong, where the mario in this is Fix It Felix, which is the name of the game, and is also voiced by someone I usually don’t like very much, Jack McBrayer. Jack plays the exact same role in everything he has ever done and his mostly annoying Felix is more of the same. But hey, name of the movie isn’t Fix It Felix, which is good. So Ralph is a bad guy, but he is not “bad, guy” just like Zangief from Street Fighter II says of himself in the alcoholics anonymous of bad guy meetings toward the beginning of the movie. He just wants some friends, wants to be accepted for being a bad guy. And herein lies one of the themes, however simple it may be, of the movies – everyone’s need for acceptance. Hey, this isn’t Shakespeare, its a PG kids movie, right? It doesn’t need to be Shakespeare if you have a lot of great, original ideas.
And this movie has those great ideas in spades. A whole bucket of em even. This movie takes all kinds of ideas we thought of as nerdy little kids – like, what DOES happen at night after the arcade closes? For a particularly dorky kid with me, who actually made up back stories for each character in Street Fighter II the first time I played it and who wrote dialogue between Sub Zero and Scorpion the first time I played the first Mortal Kombat, this was a fully legitimate idea in my head. And Rich Moore, who actually directed a lot of awesome Futurama episodes and some incredibly memorable – some might even say some of the best – Simpsons episodes, was definitely in the same vein of dorks that I was. We might even have hung out and played Magic together in high school if he had went to my school. I can’t give him all the credit of course, the writers were obviously dorks too, but hey, he co-wrote! Anyways, the idea that there is a “Game Central Station” where all of these characters converge is brilliant, and the addition of Q*Bert, which was and always will be a classic game, into the mix of this, as well as a ton of other video game character cameos, make this a movie that any self respecting video gamer absolutely has to see. I yelled “Awesome!” At some of the obscure references there just for us nerds too, like the “AERITH LIVES!” emblazoned on the wall of the subway terminal, or the exclamation point that Ralph pulls out of a lost and found box (which was from Metal Gear Solid, since I realize a lot of you NON nerds read this, too). This is a movie for everyone, it has enough silly jokes like turning Ralph into a taffy monster and enough sight gags to keep the kiddies entertained, and more than enough old school references and charming little additions, such as the Oreo warriors yelling “Oreeee-o! Ooooo!” to keep us kids at heart enraptured as well. It’s just great stuff.
Speaking of charm, this little brat here oozes it in this movie. I’ll admit that in the previews she seemed annoying, and having Sarah Silverman’s somewhat grating voice didn’t seem like it would help her case – but man, does she ever grow on you. Vanellope is the other main character who is much like Ralph, she is a misfit toy, she is a loner, and just like Ralph, she longs for acceptance from her peers in the video game world. I’m trying to make this kids movie sound mature I realize, but hey, gotta dig around for some themes here, I want you to see this movie after all! Naturally these two will end up being our heroes in the world, and they do a great job, she has some hilarious lines and is essentially just a big dork like Ralph and all of us that love this movie. Most of the movie takes place in her world, Sugar Rush, which is essentially a glorified Mario Kart with goofy candy-themed racers – everyone in the world loves Mario Kart, right? If they don’t, I’m not sure if this is a world in which I want to live. So the obvious references to that game are here, and speaking of Sugar Rush, man, is this ever a pretty movie. The first word that comes to mind when I think of the animation in this movie is “delightful”, and it really is. Even in the dark, Halo-esque world of Hero’s Duty (of which the name is punned quite often, of course), the colors, soundtrack, everything in this movie is excellent.
Aside from the great cameos in this movie and the innumerable nods to previous games and game systems alike, the last great addition to this movie is the character voiced by the always great Jane Lynch, Calhoun. Of course she has to have a man’s name because she is the hardass commander of the squad in Hero’s Duty, who was also programmed with “the most tragic backstory ever” – which I won’t ruin for you, of course, because it’s hilarious. She’s excellent and all of her scenes are funny, and I’m particularly impressed by how close she comes to swearing in this and still making it sound kiddish. That is a GIFT, my friends. “Flattery don’t charge my batteries!” is a particular favorite.
What else to say on this one? I don’t need to go much into the plot, like I said, it’s a kids movie, of course it will have a happy ending, of course the two longing for acceptance will find it. But I dare you not to have a big ol’ smile on your face at the end of this one, and maybe even get a bit choked up at the sheer damn cuteness of it all. I often say movies like this don’t come along often, but hell, in this children’s movie renaissance we are in, we might have another excellent addition in a couple of months. Unlike a lot of the Hollywood tripe and rehash we get, that is a very, very good thing. Keep the kiddies coming to the theaters with grand stuff like this, and I’ll be right there along with them….well, after opening weekend when the theaters clear out of all those damn annoying kids and crying babies, at least.