Video games have been around for about three decades. There have been movies made that feature video games, such as The Last Starfighter and The Wizard. There’ve been some dreadful movies based on video games themselves. But I think having a movie that’s actually about video games, such as Wreck-It Ralph (2012), has not been done before.
Wreck-It Ralph (John C. Reilly) longs to be as loved and accepted as his games’ perfect Good Guy, Felix Fix-It (Jack McBrayer). The problem is, nobody loves a Bad Guy. So when a modern, first-person shooter game called Hero’s Duty arrives at the arcade featuring tough-as-nails Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch), Ralph sees it as his ticket to heroism and happiness. He sneaks into the game with a simple plan. Win a medal. But he soon wrecks everything, and accidently unleashes the alien threat from Hero’s Duty upon the other video games in the arcade. It turns out Ralph’s best chance is Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), a young troublemaking “Glitch” from a candy-themed cart racing game called Sugar Rush; she may be the one to teach Ralph what it means to be a Good Guy. Will Ralph understand what it takes to be a hero before it's “Game Over” for the entire arcade?
Wreck-It Ralph was remarkably creative. I’ve never seen a movie that is about video games in their own video-game-style setting. Because there are so many video games featured in Wreck-It Ralph, there’s a lot of opportunity for a diverse art style. Sometimes it looks simple and plain, like it does in the “retro” Felix Fix-It, Jr. game, other times it looks dark and gritty like in the Hero’s Duty game, and still other times it looks bright and colorful like in the Sugar Rush game. The often bizarre contrasts are what make Wreck-It Ralph so fun! For example when Calhoun is using her sci-fi gadgetry to find the aliens that have infested Sugar Rush, all the sugar and candy in the atmosphere interfere with the sensors.
|Ralph at the Bad Guy support group.|
There’s another fantastic scene early on in the movie when several video game Bad Guys meet together as a support group. In attendance are Bowser from the Mario series, Dr. Eggman from Sonic the Hedgehog, Kano from Mortal Kombat, Clyde the ghost from Pac-Man, and M. Bison from Street Fighter to name a few. There are lots of other classic video game cameos strewn throughout the movie, including a brief speaking part from Sonic the Hedgehog, and Mario mentioned in dialogue. This was important to make the movie relatable. For main characters and settings, Disney obviously had to make their own video games to keep from making copyright infringements, but if there were no actual video game references it would have made the games created specifically for this movie seem out of sorts. But because Pac-Man attends a party, Q*Bert helps Felix, Ryu uses his Hadouken move, and they all go to the video game root beer bar Tapper after the arcade closes for the night, the made up games seem more believable. They even use the Konami Code in Wreck-It Ralph, hilarious.
Even the made up games use obvious references to actual video games. Fix-It Felix, Jr. is based off of Donkey Kong and Rampage, Hero’s Duty is similar to Halo, and it’s hard to ignore Sugar Rush’s blatant similarity to Mario Kart. It’s almost like Who Framed Roger Rabbit of video games. So many cameos and references that watching for them makes Wreck-It Ralph even more fun to watch.
So, video game junkies will love all the references, but how does it stand as a movie? I was expecting a simple, typical Disney story. But unlike half-baked stories about being yourself, Wreck-It Ralph did a great job of telling a story with good characters who are overcoming their past, reinventing themselves, accepting weaknesses as part of what makes them unique, and learning to see the world from the perspective of the downtrodden. The characters are so well written, fun, and lovable that you can’t help but care about them. There are so many jokes and groaner puns the movie will keep you laughing, but there’s also some dramatic moments that you may get choked up over. I did, anyway.
Wreck-It Ralph might be the best animated movie I’ve seen this year, it certainly gives Brave a run for its money. I was worried that with a Halo-like game referenced, it might get a bit too scary or violent for very young viewers, but that was not so. This is a great movie to watch as a family. You don’t need to have been a gamer from the Pong-era to appreciate this movie. Small children who’ve never played a video game will love it, and adults who have been helping Mario save The Princess since 1985 will probably get the biggest kick out of this movie. It’s almost like the Toy Story for this generation; kids are growing up with video games more than toys, so I think Wreck-It Ralph will be much loved for years to come. I highly recommend this movie to anyone of any age. I really want to get a copy of this on Blu-Ray when it becomes available. Catch this in theaters if you can, it’s worth the ticket price.
What is your favorite video game you played as a kid? Mine has to be Super Mario Bros. 3 or possibly Bubble Bobble on the NES. Comment below and tell me all about it!