Established May 2010.

Gordie: Do you think I'm weird?
Chris: Definitely.
Gordie: No man, seriously. Am I weird?
Chris: Yeah, but so what? Everybody's weird.

Film Critic for Twin Cities Live

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Movie Review: WRECK-IT RALPH

Director: Rich Moore
Starring the Voices of: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jane Lynch, Jack McBrayer

"Fix-It Felix, Jr." is a popular arcade game celebrating its 30th anniversary. The classic villain of the game is Wreck-It Ralph (Reilly) who must destroy a building before its hero and main character Fix-It Felix (McBrayer) has a chance to fix the wreckage. When the doors of the arcade close at the end of the day, these characters and worlds come alive. They can go in and out of their games through the Game Central Station as long as they are back to their game when the arcade doors open. A child could easily tell if one of the characters has gone missing from the game.

After thirty years, Ralph is feeling depressed as he is always the villain. He attends Bad-Anon meetings with other villains to work out his feelings. He comes back to the game to find all of the characters are having an anniversary party, but he was not invited. He goes up to the party and Felix sympathizes with him and lets him in. Ralph gets angry when he sees a Ralph figurine is left at the bottom of the cake while everyone else is on the top of the cake. He notices the Felix figurine has a medal and does not understand why he cannot have a medal. Mayhem and a big mess ensue when Ralph throws a tantrum.

Ralph learns that he can win a medal by winning the shooting game, "Hero’s Duty". He encounters Sargent Calhoun (Lynch), the heavy-duty, tough-as-nails leader of the game. Ralph quickly gets his medal but a bot stuck to his escape pod forces him out of the game and subsequently sends him crashing into the racing game, "Sugar Rush Speedway". In this saccharine new world Ralph meets Vanellope von Schweetz(Silverman) hanging off a candy tree. She is a spunky little girl that has felt neglected by the other characters of Sugar Rush as they feel she is not as cool as them as she is only a glitch. All she wants to do is drive a race car like all of the other girls. She snatches the medal from Ralph and uses it to enter the race. Ralph’s desperate attempt to get his medal back opens his eyes to realize that the world of "Sugar Rush Speedway" may not be the cheery and exciting game it is from the outside. He and Vanellope may have more in common than he thought.

The Disney animation studios have really hit it out of the ballpark again with one of their best animated movies in the last decade. The attention and thought put into all of the intricate detail is astonishing. It seems apparent that each world of each video game was thoroughly conceptualized and designed as to not leave any loopholes for any avid gamer to notice. The transitions between the "real" world and the world inside of the game are flawless and cleverly morphed together. The design is so rich in each of the games that it would take multiple viewings to notice all of the subtle choices and references to past video game characters or the kinds of sweet treats that make up "Sugar Rush Speedway". The animators took great care and detail to appropriately design some of the characters movements to match the style of that game or time period. Some characters seem a bit more pixelated and move around a bit more robotic if they are from older games.

The script is witty with constant laughs appropriate for younger and older audiences without ever feeling dumbed down and cheap. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the characters were given background stories and dimensions, especially for supporting characters like Vanellope and Calhoun. All too often supporting characters tend to be the dopey or sassy sidekick who annoys the main character. The voice work done by Reilly and Silverman, in particular, stays grounded and relatable and never borders obnoxious kid-movie tendencies. If you ever played in an arcade when you were younger, you are bound to be flooded with memories as characters show up throughout the movie. The Bad-Anon scene is a stitch! If you are not a gamer, do not feel like you are being left out of the game. It is still plenty enjoyable for us non-gaming folks. I do not consider myself a gamer in my adult life, but I was fascinated and enraptured by the visuals created to bring these games to life. If you are a gamer, you will love it even more as it honors the arcade world.

RATING: **** 1/2 (4.5 out of 5 stars)

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