There’s more than what meets the eye in Wreck-It Ralph – a sincerely crafted and nostalgic love-letter to arcade videogames and the people that played them. Beyond the garish 3D-animated surface is an intriguing question on how our culture objectively defines what it means to be a hero and a villain.
In what many of us believed could only be accomplished by Pixar, Wreck-It Ralph (similar to Frankenweenie) has the possibility to delight and transport both children and adult audiences.
Similar to some of the most revered and iconic arcade videogames of all time (I’m looking at you Pac-Man, Frogger, and Galaga) Wreck-It Ralph flourishes in its simplistic story of one (paradoxically kind-hearted) villain named Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) who is sick and tired of being the bad guy. The gentle giant desperately wishes (just for once) the roles were reversed, and he was the beloved hero.
To fulfill his dream Ralph leaves Fix It Felix (his game), and embarks on a quest for heroism. His journey quickly unravels into disarray when he enters worlds (other videogames) he’s prohibited from.
Eventually the scared mammoth stumbles upon Calhoun (an hard-nosed Army solider voiced by Jane Lynch) and Vanellope (an outcast in her race car game voiced by Sarah Silverman). Both assist him in rectifying the damage he’s caused. All the while Felix (Jack McBrayer) and the rest of the Fix It Felix characters search for Ralph in hopes he’ll come back (if not, the plug will be pulled and the game will be shutdown forever).
Ralph’s search for importance and significance is a common one. He’s constantly relegated to solitude, rejected and mocked by his peers. When he abandons them to finally become something, to become a “hero”, his motives and means are justified. Wreck-It Ralph manages to artfully convey that and more.
Where it lacks in storytelling (sometime its too slight for its own good), it’s made up for in visual effects. While the 3D is essentially a waste of money, director Rich Moore is clearly coming from a place of experience and affection for videogames. It what feels like an homage to interactive entertainment, Wreck-It Ralph – with popping and colorful animation – stimulates and dazzles like any quality videogame would.
Wreck-It Ralph is an overall versatile package of booming animation cinema. For a directorial debut, this is exactly the type of retro filmmaking that provides a healthy and enjoyable respite to Oscar-bait and blockbuster mayhem.