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New Release Review - Wreck-It Ralph

Directed by: Rich Moore
Starring: John C. Reilly, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Sarah Silverman, Alan Tudyk

While there are many who would argue differently, 2012 has been a relatively good year for animation.  With "Brave", "Pirates! Band of Misfits" and "Frankenweenie" (among others), there's been plenty of appealing films for all ages.  And while "Wreck-It Ralph" looked somewhat less promising than the others in my eyes, it ended up being an absolute joy and one of the best of 2012.

Set in the video game world, "Wreck-It Ralph" is a typical arcade villain who's tired of being bad.  In an attempt to start a new life, Ralph "game jumps" to a game called Hero's Duty, and through a chaotic series of events, ends up in a kart racing game called Sugar Rush.  In this Candy Land of video games, Ralph meets a little girl named Vanellope whom is determined to be accepted among the residents of Sugar Rush by winning a kart race against them.
"Wreck-It Ralph" is a video game movie, and while video game oriented films have a reputation for being relatively awful, "Wreck-It Ralph" exceeds any pre-expectations that one may have as a result.  Perhaps part of "Wreck-It Ralph"'s success comes from the fact that it adapts the video game world, as opposed to adapting an individual video game.
Gamers will get the most out of "Wreck-It Ralph".  A minute rarely goes by without some reference to some video game, video game character or video game cliche.  It effectively satires everything that's good and bad about video games in a way that won't insult gamers, but rather leave them chuckling as they nod in acknowledgement.
Bowser, Sonic the Hedgehog, Q*Bert, Pac Man, Dig Dug and dozens of others make cameo appearances (some even have speaking roles).  Mario didn't make it, though he is briefly mentioned once.
But fear not, "Wreck-It Ralph" won't only appeal to gamers.  Even those who aren't familiar with the wonderful world of video games will find much humor.  "Wreck-It Ralph" has plenty of humor in the less video game oriented field, though many of the best bits come from the various video game references and satire humor.
As is typical for a Disney film, "Wreck-It Ralph" is filled with memorable characters.  The title character, Ralph, while still a bit on the generic side, is an easy to like protagonist.  Vanellope is a sarcastic little girl, who is actually much less annoying than one might initially expect (she actually sort of grows on you).  Other characters are more entertaining.  Fix-It Felix Jr. is the goodie-two-shoes of this movie, while Sergeant Jean Calhoun is a no-nonsense space commander.  The most memorable character, however, is King Candy, who's the ridiculously over the top and pun-y leader of Sugar Rush (though he may feel a bit too familiar to the Mad Hatter for some).
Perhaps what's most surprising about "Wreck-It Ralph" is how moving it is.  It's initial attempts at poignancy may seem a bit clumsy and predictable at first, but it quickly develops into something much more satisfying, if far from the elegance of Pixar.
The animation is incredible.  From the purposely stiff animation in Wreck-It Ralph's game, to the hyper realistic looking Hero's Duty, to the colorful Sugar Rush, "Wreck-It Ralph" is the most visually superb computer animated film of the year, a vast array of blink-and-then-you'll-miss-it sight gags that is practically begging for repeat viewings.
Cast members include John C. Reily, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, and Jane Lynch among others.  Each voice actor blends beautifully with their character, though outside of Alan Tudyk (the voice of King Candy), there aren't any standouts.  
The score by Henry Jackman captures the video game world perfectly.  Mixing electronic instruments and orchestra intelligently, Jackman provides an energetic score for "Wreck-It Ralph".  The heavy use of electric guitar in the Hero's Duty world is purposely overdone to humorous effect, and the theme for the Sugar Rush races is joyfully nostalgic and sounds just like a tune you might listen to in a Mario Kart game.  Still, during some of the more serious (and thankfully rare) moments, the score becomes rather generic, and less memorable than the other tracks.
In a film that does so much right, it feels almost overly hypocritical to point out some of the things that "Wreck-It Ralph" does wrong, but they should be mentioned.
"Wreck-It Ralph" often suffers from being too familiar.  Taking bits and pieces from "Alice in Wonderland", "Monsters Inc"., "Toy Story", "Despicable Me", and various others, "Wreck-It Ralph" occasionally feels a bit recycled.  Still, there's so much of "Wreck-It Ralph" that's clever and original, this can be overlooked. What can't be overlooked however is the potty humor.  "Wreck-It Ralph" is not stuffed with crude humor, but the almost constant smile on my face changed into a frown during these instances.  The potty humor is not necessary, and only makes the film feel more childish than it should.  It surely won't score points with parents who will find this to be the only questionable content in an otherwise family-friendly film.
While familiar elements, occasional potty humor and sometimes overly sappy emotion fills the screen, "Wreck-It Ralph" is an absolutely outrageous film.  Consistently clever, visually enchanting, and extremely memorable while even delivering a twist or two, "Wreck-It Ralph" is a must-see for gamers and adults that grew up with these games.  "Wreck-It Ralph" is unlikely to be considered one of Disney's best films, but it's certainly one of their funniest.

Note:  "Wreck-It Ralph" is preceded by a short called "Paperman" that is cute and charming, if not quite groundbreaking.

8/10

Joshua LF Mitchell

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