The Movie Date: Wreck-It Ralph

The Movie Date is a weekly feature where we discuss movies that may appeal to the YA audience. Andrew is The Reading Date’s resident movie critic and this week he discusses the latest Disney animated film: Wreck-It Ralph.

Wreck-It Ralph movie poster

In the virtual world of video games, a disgruntled, brutish villain leaves his game seeking redemption and helps a “glitchy” little girl in another game.

It’s ironic that, in the world of hyper-realistic CGI animated films, the more three-dimensional the characters look, the flatter and less involving they actually are. Not so in Wreck-It Ralph, the sweetest and most emotional Disney Animation film since Lilo and Stitch a decade ago. Here Disney has shamelessly stolen the secret weapons that have made most of the Pixar films so memorable: rich characters and deeply involving story arcs. Though this might look like a silly, noisy, boy-targeted action fest, it’s a fascinating and even tear-inducing saga of a virtual plaything who’s tired of his predictable role. Think Toy Story set in the video-game world and you’ll get an idea of where this is going.

Our heart goes out to Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) right from the film’s opening. He’s the building-smashing, ham-fisted heavy in an 80s-style arcade game known as Fix-It Felix Jr. Every day, all day, Ralph wrecks an apartment building and Felix (30 Rock’s Jack McBrayer) fixes it. As we move into the “real world” inside the game, we encounter Ralph’s isolation and disappointment at not being accepted by the apartment dwellers whose building he ruins. He wants to be a good guy, with a medal of heroism like the one Felix wins every single day.

So he escapes from his game via the power cable and winds up in a ridiculous new world called Sugar Rush—a kart-racing game for girls set in a magical candy kingdom. He encounters spunky Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), a sassy little charmer who can’t get into the big kart race: her glitchy programming is deemed too dangerous for human players, lest the arcade console go out of order. Meanwhile, since his game doesn’t work without a villain, Felix searches for Ralph, enlisting the help of Calhoun (Jane Lynch), a tough female “sarge” from a first-person shooter. While these two try to thwart an attack on Sugar Rush from a horde of viral “cybugs,” Ralph helps Vanellope build her own racer—and uncover her own long-hidden destiny.

As in Toy Story, the film is rich with pop-culture nostalgia, featuring characters from classic games like Pac-Man, Q-Bert, Super Mario Bros, Sonic the Hedgehog, and so on. But the film never loses sight of its main goal: to dramatize Ralph’s valiant quest towards self-understanding (and soon, Vanellope’s too). How can you possibly do the right thing when you’re programmed to do wrong, and are built with fists bigger than your head? In his Bad-Anon group, Ralph recites a Bad Guy’s pledge: “I am bad, and that’s good. I will never be good, and that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be than me.” He repeats it at the end of the film as if really understanding it for the first time.

Wreck-it Ralph’s game-world concept is clever and well thought-out, the visuals are dazzling (the Sugar Rush world really does look good enough to eat), and Ralph and Vanellope’s “buddy” friendship is heartwarming. Even if you’re not into (or just plain over) animated films, this is one to make an exception for, with characters so three-dimensional you won’t need special glasses to enjoy them.

Wreck-It Ralph is rated PG and now playing in theaters nationwide.


25 thoughts on “The Movie Date: Wreck-It Ralph

  1. Jody Moller says:

    Loved the look of the preview. So glad to hear the film holds up too. Only one question, is there enough in it to keep the kids entertained too?

    1. Andrew says:

      Oh, fear not—the movie has plenty of eye “candy,” rude jokes, and high-energy action to keep the kids more than happy. It’s just that underlying all that is a sweet story that adults will appreciate.

  2. Elin says:

    Looks funny, love the preview:) Never seen this movie:)

    1. wordsforthepictures says:

      I didn’t play it up much in the review but it is VERY funny. And really character-driven comedy, not just a string of tired pop-cultural references, like so many animated films.

  3. BermudaOnion says:

    My son asked me to go see this but I dismissed it because it’s animated. I’m rethinking it now.

    1. wordsforthepictures says:

      Please do consider it. My 13yo daughter wanted me to go but I blew it off until I saw the overwhelmingly positive reviews. We were both practically cheering when it was over. As was the audience!

  4. My 14yo son and I loved this movie. I liked the retro characters from my day and he loved the action and humor. I highly recommend this one.

    1. wordsforthepictures says:

      It was really exciting to see all the elements—character, emotion, humor, design, dialogue, action—coming together so harmoniously and effortlessly. The movie already has a cult following online; it’s really connecting with a wide range of people.

  5. Awesome! I want to see this movie and your review made me want to see it even more! No idea when I’ll get to see it – I think hubby and I are going to Skyfall this weekend. 😉 Thanks for another great review!

    1. wordsforthepictures says:

      Going to Skyfall tomorrow myself! And then after that (maybe Saturday?) to see Denzel in the apparently remarkable Flight. So fun to see movies in the fall, when the good ones are out…

      1. Flight was AMAZING. People clapped in the theater after it was over.

      2. Did you like SKYFALL? I loved it!

      3. We saw it, too. It was awesome. Dragged on a bit in the middle for me, but I loved it.

  6. CMrok93 says:

    Great review. It’s a conventional story, but has plenty of heart and fun for it’s characters that it’s almost too hard to not have a good time with it all.

    1. wordsforthepictures says:

      It’s anything but the cheap “Sugar Rush,” instantly gratifying and quickly forgotten, suggested in the title of Vanellope’s game. Hours after seeing it, my 13yo daughter and I were still remembering favorite moments, lines, and characters—and planning to see it again.

  7. I hadn’t really been interested in this movie, but after reading this post, I think it sounds really cute and great. I think the line “Think Toy Story set in the video-game world and you’ll get an idea of where this is going.” is what caught my attention! 🙂

    1. Andrew says:

      That Toy Story comparison comes up again and again, both from Disney and others. I hope you enjoy it if you see it!

  8. Glad you loved it because I really was wanting to see this one!

    1. wordsforthepictures says:

      Definitely worth your time and ticket money. Probably even worth seeing the 3D version too.

  9. fishgirl182 says:

    i loved this movie! one of the best that disney has done in a long, long time. i loved the land of sugar rush and the voices were spot on. i kind of want to see it again…

  10. veganyanerds says:

    This sounds and looks adorable!! Thanks for featuring it as I hadn’t heard of it but I have a feeling even my bf will love this movie! I watched the trailer and I think they have done such a good job of making that arcade game look real and the little girl in the lolly land looks like the Agnes from Despicable Me – love it!

  11. I am SO EXCITED for this one. Ever since I first heard about it I knew it would be one I would enjoy, and I’m glad to hear that it’s awesome.

    1. Andrew says:

      It really is awesome—the story concept was interesting, but I could see that idea being made as a kind of dull movie for kids only. I’m surprised at how much heart they were able to find in this story.

  12. Chachic says:

    I’ve seen the preview for this and I’ve heard from friends back home that it’s really good. Looking forward to this coming out in Singapore! I don’t know why but we get movies here much later than everyone else.

  13. […] Animated Feature – Again, the only one I saw was the favorite, Wreck-It Ralph. (I reviewed it here, in fact.) I heard good things about ParaNorman. Though I usually love Pixar and Burton, their […]

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