By Kayley Erlandson
2012: the year when the two major family movie studios pulled a Freaky Friday, when Pixar made a Disney film (Brave) and Disney made a Pixar film. Whereas Brave focused on a more conventional storyline about a princess (usually Disney’s forte), Wreck-It Ralph imagines a world close to home, yet beyond our sight: the video game world.
Wreck-It Ralph centers around the titular character (voiced by John C. Reilly), a “bad guy” in a video game whose job is to wreck things. He’s good at his job, but the townspeople who inhabit the building he destroys on a daily basis don’t appreciate his work ethic. “It’s hard to love your job when no one seems to like you for doing it,” Ralph laments.
On the 30th anniversary of his game, Ralph forgoes wrecking and “game-jumps” to a first-person shooter game called “Hero’s Duty” in an attempt to win a hero’s medal to impress the townspeople back home. He wins his medal, but promptly loses it when he crash-lands in Sugar Rush, a racing game that could induce diabetes by just looking at its sugar-laced architecture. The only way for Ralph to get his coveted medal back is to help a young “glitch” or flawed program, Vanellope Von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) win a race against manipulative ruler King Candy (Alan Tudyuk).
Unbeknownst to Ralph, a Cybug computer virus hitched a ride with him to the magical candy world, multiplied, and now threatens to consume Sugar Rush. As Ralph races to save his friends, he realizes that he may be programmed as a bad guy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he has to be a bad guy.
Overall, Wreck-It Ralph is a treat for kids and adults. Disney throws itself wholeheartedly into the retro video game mindset from the first seconds of the movie, with an 8-bit version of the “Steamboat Willie” Disney logo. Loving nods to details in video games abound and “cameos” from video game greats like Sonic the Hedgehog show how hard the creators of Wreck-It Ralph worked to give the movie an authentic touch.
The overlapping genres of video games provide lots of laughs (“When did video games get so violent?” Ralph screams as bullets and evil bugs fly around him in Hero’s Duty.) The candy puns in Sugar Rush are clever (at one point, the heroes have to escape Nesquik Sand). The only jokes I didn’t care for was the toilet humor. Ultimately, this flaw is forgivable given that there are far more clever moments than jokes about bodily functions. Wreck-It Ralph is a sugar-laced, self-aware version of Tron and one of my favorite animated movies of the year.