Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Case for Ralphing

Now that Pixar is officially bought by Disney, I am not sure if Wreck It Ralph qualifies as one of their works.  I will say no, as overall, I was a little underwhelmed by this offering, but more on that later.

The usual “short” before the main feature provides additional evidence against this being a Pixar film.  First and foremost, the Paper Man is animated in the traditional, manual way and the main characters are portrayed in a very Disney style.  It starts off quite well and possibly edgy in a family friendly black and white way, but in the end deteriorates into a lazy, trite romance, albeit with great animation.

And then the feature starts (after several “this is Disney” logos).  Considering the film is drawing on video game greats through the ages (like Q-Bert, Pac Man, Street Fighter and the like), I would have thought there would be a hundred opportunities to make big jokes and subtle digs using the characters known to arcade fans of all ages.  And a few jokes there are, in the beginning, though they dry up when the main story kicks in and Ralph tries to be a hero.  

Ralph (voiced by Thomas C Reilly), you see, is a villain in Fit-It Felix (who looks and sounds like Kenneth from 30 Rock, probably because it voiced by the same actor) and feels underappreciated.  He wants feel like the hero for once, and so goes in search of an elusive hero medal, and then, in trying to keep it, learns what it takes to be a “real” hero. 

His first foray takes him into a first person shoot ‘em up under the command of a ballsy military commander Sergeant Calhoun voiced by Jane Lynch, whose penchant dry snide remarks instantly make her the most awesome character in the movie.  It’s a shame then when she is left behind in the back up story when Ralph moves to car racing game Sugar Rush and joins forces Penelope, voiced by the talented Sarah Silverman who can make any character incredibly annoying within two seconds.  Penelope wants to get back in the regular game racing roster, but the King (voiced by an unrecognisable Alan Tudyk) has other ideas.

Once the action shifts to the Sugar Rush, the movie lost a lot of the magic for me.  I found Penelope ridiculously annoying and cloying and so was not really impressed when she took centre stage.  Her final speech I found particularly irritating (SPOILER ALERT) where she denounces royalty in favour of Sugar Rush becoming a “democracy” shows that she doesn’t quite get that you can call yourself President if you like, but if no one votes for you as a leader, that is still like a monarchy (though is more likely called a dictatorship).

There is a lot more that goes on in the story that I will not touch on here.  But the animation and music are amazing, evoking the magic of the original video games (though I was not altogether sure why Ralph and Felix move a lot more “smoothly” than the rest of the characters from the game) and the violence and/or cutesy levels that games of now have achieved.  I am not sure if it convinced me to go back to the arcade, but it kind of made me want to play Street Fighter again – mainly to go all Ryo on the people in the row behind me who had the loudest and hardest to open chippie packet known and seem to pop a bottle of champagne at one stage as well.

Verdict:  If I view Wreck It Ralph as a Pixar film, I am disappointed, so I will instead see it as a Disney film and that means I see it from a completely different perspective.  Jane Lynch steals the movie, even though there is not much of her, and it’s a shame when things get stuck on “saccharine” in Sugar Rush.  But overall, there are some lovely classic game references (more at the beginning) and a few one liners to make one smile.  It’s just a shame there are large tracts of unremarkable storytelling in between.  6.5 Zurgs out of 10.

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