Monday, November 5, 2012

Kotas Reviews Wreck-It Ralph

This weekend Charlotte and I went to see Wreck-It Ralph in the theater. We even paid full price. Did you know that two movie tickets for two adults at full price costs $21? Neither did I. Anywho, we got to see previews for the Hobbit, which was awesome, and some other crap I don’t care about.

The movie is prefaced by a little short called Paperman. Paperman is a tale of a man, a woman, and about one hundred paper airplanes. There is no dialogue for the whole thing, but it was very, very well done. To talk further about it is to spoil it, and I wish to not do that. It was very good.

Fair warning, I am going to try to avoid spoilers as much as possible in this review, but a few things may slip in here and there. If you want the summary, just skip down to the last paragraph for the FACE rating and my final thoughts.

Okay, now that that is out of the way, let’s dive in. The opening montage sets up the story of the game. Fix-It Felix Jr. is an arcade game in, well, an arcade. It’s been there for 30 years now, watching other games come and go...and Ralph has been the “bad guy” in the game for all that time. He wrecks the Niceland Apt. complex, Felix Jr. fixes it, Ralph gets thrown off the roof, lands in the mud, and Felix gets a medal. At the end of the day, everyone goes inside for punch and pie, while Ralph goes to live in the dump, next to his old stump, with a bed of bricks.

As the narration closes, we finally see the framing device of Ralph at a support group for “bad guys” called Bad-Anon. Essentially, he is dissatisfied at being treated like a real “bad guy” for just doing his job. I think we can all relate to that, having had to be the “bad guy” once or twice in our lives. Anyway, the support group breaks up and reveals they are all actually inside the Pac-Man game...and can leave it via a giant power strip that connects all the video games. It seems that the characters can travel to the Power Strip (a.k.a. Grand Central Station) and thus move between all the different games in the arcade. That is, unless their game gets unplugged, in which case they either “die” with the game, or remain in Grand Central Station. The other major problem, which is revealed via hearing a “safety warning” by Sonic the Hedgehog playing on a nearby billboard, is that if you die outside your own game, you don’t regenerate and are gone forever.

Ralph, after essentially being shunned by his game mates during the 30th Anniversary of their game being plugged in, decides that he’s gonna go get his own medal, even shinier and bigger than any of the ones Felix has. Thus, he decides to game jump and win a medal in another game. Hilarity doth ensue, and everyone learns valuable life lessons about, uh, virtual life. The main characters have a fair amount of depth for the most part, with Ralph and Venelope having the most while Felix and Sergeant Calhoun have the least. That said, I particularly enjoy Calhoun’s backstory as it is one of the better “video game in jokes” of the movie.

In fact, that is really one of the highlights of this film: All the video game jokes. Most of them are just little visual gags in the background, but they entertain me so. From the Pong lines and blobs running around Grand Central Station to the fact that the protagonist from Tapper is the local barman, there’s a lot for a video game nerd to enjoy. The other source of cheap laughs is the setting of the racing game Sugar Rush, a candy and sweets themed racer where a lot of the film’s action takes place. The myriad of jokes are infinitely predictable, but they are still pretty funny, and there’s even a few Chekov’s Sight Gags to be found.

The film’s flaws are mostly found in the middle acts. A lot of what makes this film clever is the game hopping stuff, and seeing characters out of their element. Jane Lynch’s Sergeant Calhoun is a riot to watch, Ralph is a VERY sympathetic character, and Felix is a likable but privileged jerk ass at times, and all these characters have interesting arcs...buuuuuuut once we get to Sugar Rush, all of these elements become sidelines to the story of Venelope, played by Sarah Silverman. I liked the character well enough (she is annoying...but she’s SUPPOSED to be annoying so it works), but the movie switches the focus to mostly her and that is a bit of a detriment. The end is, well, very, VERY predictable with only one real twist that came as any sort of surprise. Still, the old standby story constructions have served us well over the years, and when presented well can be very, very enjoyable.

This is a fun movie, and I enjoyed it a lot. On a scale of 5 frowny faces to 5 smiley faces this gets a solid 3 smiley faces. It is a kid friendly movie that holds a lot of hidden gems for those of us who grew up with video games and can get behind some old fashioned sentimental entertainment. Definitely the feel good movie of this week.