While Pixar has moved steadily downward on the chart of 3D-animated movies as of late, it seems as though Disney has actually gotten better; especially when you consider how badly they got started with movies like Chicken Little and Meet The Robinsons. Ever since Pixar came around, it’s almost always seemed like Disney needs them to save their arse. This, however, appears to be at an end.
Wreck-It Ralph is the latest CG film by Disney and it dives into a world we’ve not seen Disney dive into too often – the world of video games. And honestly, this isn’t just the best 3D movie Disney has ever created. It is outright one of the greatest pieces of animation I’ve seen. This is as close to pure perfection as one can get in terms of writing, pay-offs, characters and humour of all sorts. It is the greatest film I’ve seen in a very – and I mean very – long time.
The story centers around video game villain Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly), who has grown tired of his role as a chew toy villain in the game Fix-It Felix, Jr., the titular hero of which (Jack McBrayer) always gets the credit, appreciation and medals. Ralph wants a medal of his own so he when the arcade closes one night and all the children stop using the machines, he goes by train (or rather by electrical chord) to Game Central Station, where all the video game characters go to mellow out after another busy shift in their respective games. Here, he tries to find a game where he can be a hero. After breaking into a Halo-esque first person shooter game, Hero’s Duty, he eventually steals himself a hero medal from that game, but loses it after accidentally ending up a much more bright and sweet kind of game – Sugar Rush.
Here he meets the irritating but adorable Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), who is actually a glitch and shouldn’t actually be there. She steals his medal and uses it to illegally enter one of the Sugar Rush go-kart races, but is caught red-handed by King Candy (Alan Tudyk). This eventually ends with Ralph and Vanellope being forced to put their differences aside and work together so that Vanellope can fulfil her dream of winning a race of her own. In return, Ralph will finally get his medal. Meanwhile, Felix and the badass lead character of Hero’s Duty, Sergeant Tamora Jean Calhoun (Jane Lynch), venture into the Sugar Rush game, not only to get Ralph back home to his game before it’s declared out of order, but also to stop a vicious army of cybugs (the insect villains of Hero’s Duty, who accidentally got caught inside Sugar Rush with Ralph and are actually a type of virus) from spreading inside the world of the game and make it crash forever.
Basically, it’s an intense race against the clock and lots of action, a dash of romance and tons of video game humour ensues!
The film itself is just fantastic! This is basically a polar opposite of Dreamworks’ Rise of The Guardians, the advertising of which made it look dark and edgy but turned out to be pretty sweet and childish, whereas Wreck-It Ralph is made to look pretty bright and kid-friendly by most of the advertising but is actually one of the most intelligent, edgy and entertaining films I’ve seen in ages.
The script, for one thing, is just about as perfect as it gets. Not only do we get an immensely powerful bond between Ralph and Vanellope, a funny romance between Felix and Calhoun and a captivating story arc, but we also get every single solitary loose end tied together at the end in a way that’s downright flawless. Everything comes full circle, all the Chekov’s Guns are fired and there’s a plot twist that is of the very best kind, which is a twist that you don’t see coming, but when it does come you can’t help but slap your forehead and go “Oh my God… of course!!” That’s how a twist is done and that is one of the many things the writing team got right. Massive kudos!
But then of course there’s the references. Even if you’ve only played one video game in your entire life, there are jokes in this film that will make you laugh, both of the visual, physical and verbal kind. There are countless clever gags and throwbacks to the Sonic games, Street Fighter, Pac-Man, Mario – the list goes on and on. Another nice touch is how the characters are animated depending on which games they’re from. The characters of Fix-It Felix, for instance, may look CG and pretty, but they’re short and move at a frame rate that makes them truly look like they belong inside an 8-bit game, unlike the characters from Hero’s Duty, who look and move very realistically. Seeing all these differently designed characters next to each other makes it all the more enticing. The Narcotics Anonymous-like meeting of all the video game villains, including Robotnik, Bowser and a Pac-Man ghost, is yet another brilliant concept.
The film has time for some references to other movies too, though. King Candy is a nod to the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, the cybugs are a nod to the Alien franchise and I believe there was some Star Wars in there, as well. That stuff, too, is very charming.
And then there’s the visuals, which are some of the very finest I’ve beheld. The designs of all the different video game settings, the way the enviroment of an 8-bit world is translated into CGI, the look of the place where all the game characters hang out, the creative character designs again, the greatly colorful action – all of it is first rate and most of it is (gasp!) actually favored by the 3D. This is one of those films where 3D helps give the world of the film depth and create some genuinely interesting imagery, without having characters jumping at the screen. It is just a gorgeously animated movie.
Are there any flaws to the film? Honestly, I can think of none off the top of my head. I was sitting in the theatre at the edge of my seat, laughing at 100% percent of the jokes and enjoying every solitary minute of the movie, even managing to ignore the noisy kids in the audience who probably didn’t get half of the references anyways. I even choked up quite a bit near the end where – and I’ll try not to reveal too much – there’s a misunderstanding between Ralph and Vanellope and he ends up “wrecking” the go-kart he helped her build. That was a genuinely heart-breaking moment and there is even more emotion to be found where that came from, both of a happy and sad kind. You might even feel horrified at the concept of where some of these characters end up, should their games be shut down. Something you won’t feel, though, is boredom.
I honestly think that something got mixed up during the making of this movie and Pixar’s Brave. I think that either the crews or scripts got mixed up in some bizarre way that ended with Pixar giving us the boring, formulaic princess movie whilst the folk at Disney gave us the inventive and smart family-action comedy, when it would normally be the other way around. Puzzling, it certainly is.
But oh, what a film it is! It’s creative, it’s clever, it’s adventurous, it’s funny, it’s sad, it’s dark, it’s bright, it’s charming, it’s visual, it’s emotional – ladies and gentlemen, it has a little bit for everyone. This film is absolutely nothing less than a masterpiece. I give Wreck-It Ralph my highest rating, a standing ovation, and a medal.
The film came out in 2012, but is yet another one that due to it’s prolonged release date here in Sweden will have to end up on my list of this year’s greatest films. Hell, I might even put it at number 1. So there ya go. This critic’s favourite film of 2013 is a 2012 movie. I do hate Sweden sometimes.