Saturday, December 22, 2012

Wreck-It Ralph

Man, "Tron 3" got really weird.

We survived the Apocalypse, so I figure I owe you people that "Wreck-It Ralph" review that you've all been begging for.  (Or the four or five of you who actually comment have been begging for.)  So here it is, Christmas came early this year, and Hanukkah came weeks late.  As you'd expect, "Wreck-It Ralph" was a damn good movie and I'm glad I managed to catch it on exactly the last minute*.  This is easily the best animated movie of the year, so if you haven't seen it yet... well, you're screwed probably.  Wait for DVD.

For whatever reason Pixar this year decided that they were going to do the magical Princess movie, and Disney decided that they would copy Pixar's usual plotline of inanimate objects living happily in a secret tiny society.  And so with Disney making a Pixar movie and Pixar making a Disney movie, "Wreck-It Ralph" feels like a video game-style "Toy Story", and "Brave" felt like.... crap, honestly.  My biggest worry about "Wreck-It Ralph" was that it would descend into endless fanservice and video game cameos for the nerd crowd, but instead they actually focused on making a nicely solid kid's movie.  And they found a way to give Samus a voice and characterization that didn't also make her humorless codependent wretch.

The plot as the trailers have told you, takes place in one of the increasingly-few arcades.  All the little video game characters are connected together through the electricity, traveling through the plugs.  This is why the "Street Fighter" characters and Pac-Man are hanging around, but you won't find any "Zelda" or "Final Fantasy" - those games have never been in arcades**.  Impressively they even managed to sneak in characters from extremely gory franchises like "Mortal Kombat" and "House of the Dead", I'm guessing the Disney execs don't really know video games that well.  Wreck-It Ralph is the villain of a 1982 video game called "Fix-It Felix Jr.", a thinly-veiled copypasta of "Donkey Kong", who after thirty years of being the bad guy and ignored by all his dickish co-characters, decides that he wants more in his life.  To that end he "goes maverick" and jumps into other arcade games in order to prove that there is more to him than simply smashing buildings.  Along the way we get every once of the magical adventure that the trailers promised.

Before the review really starts though, let me talk about the pre-movie animated short, "Paperman".  Before "Brave" this year there was a short called "La Luna", and I thought that was as amazing and beautiful as animated shorts could get.  Oh, I was very wrong.  "Paperman" is only about a few minutes, but it ranks as one of the most charming and gorgeous things I have ever seen, watching it one of the best experiences of my life.  Its the story of a young man and a woman in 1950s Manhattan, both of them riding the El-train to their dull black and white places of work.  And at the end thanks to some magical pieces of paper, they finally meet and get coffee.  And yet... despite no dialog, almost no color except for some red lipstick, and barely any story... its absolutely perfect.  This is the film perfection.  Its a mix of 3D animation and watch appears to be hand-drawn sketchwork, or 3D animation that looks very convincingly like sketchwork.  I was mesmerized.  That alone was worth the price of admission.  It was worth the price of eight admissions.  If this doesn't win the Oscar for Best Animated Short Film, I will summon the Mayan Apocalypse back from Hell and drop it right on Hollywood.  It takes a lot to make me feel somewhat disappointed that I had to now watch "Wreck-It Ralph", but "Paperman" did it.  Think all the magic and charm of "WALL-E", "Once", "The Secret of Kells", and "Moonstruck" and stuff it into just three minutes, and that's "Paperman".  I loved this thing, absolutely loved.

So umm...  What was I reviewing again?  Ah yes, that video game movie.

Most of the movie's greatest threat and impending disasters are caused by Ralph himself, since his leaving the game means that the "Fix-It Felix Jr." cabinet will get disconnected from the arcade, which means video game true death.  (Also Sonic the Hedgehog helpfully tells us that "If you die outside your game, you die for real, and that's no good!")  However, Ralph's actions are completely justified because the other people in his game are super dicks.  I mean, cock drainers of the highest magnitude here.  They don't even bother inviting him to the "Fix-It Felix Jr" 30th Anniversary Party and get pissed at him when he tries to show up.  Later on one of the characters has the balls to lecture him as if this all Ralph's fault, and somehow this prick never gets punished.  What the Hell??  Oh well, there are considerably worse villains in this movie to fight, such as the multiplying alien creature that Ralph accidentally brings into the Candyland "Super Mario Kart"-ripoff game.  And then there's the secret twist Final Boss.

Surprisingly most of the game takes place in the Candyland game, which was pretty surprising for me.  Its odd that there wasn't more variety in the locations, but I can tell why they kept the Candyland Racing thing going for so long:  they had a lot of candy jokes.  I am talking three trucks full of these things.  By the way, the Sarah Silverman character from the trailers is actually the main heroine, which surprised me since I figured she was little more than annoying comic relief.  She's still very annoying, but her character actually has more to her than the usual loudmouth cartoon character.  This isn't Robin Williams in "FernGully", or Robin Williams in "Aladdin", or Robin Williams in "Robots", or Robin Williams in "Happy Feet", its a character with real depth and sadness behind her.  As it turns out, even though Sarah Silverman is one of the least funny women alive in real life and basically the worse adult version of Amanda Bynes, in this movie her character actually isn't that bad.  She's a little tiny Candyland racer, but due to a programming bug, she's actually little more than a glitch, similar to the Ermac rumors from the original "Mortal Kombat".  So the other racers absolutely hate her and they refuse to let her race - the one thing she's been programmed to do - leaving her a life of isolated misery similar to Ralph's.  Sarah Silverman can actually pull off these emotional scenes.  And if she weren't a chibi pint-sized Looney Tunes character and Ralph wasn't twenty times her size, they might have even gone with a romance subplot here.

The main sideplot features Fix-It Felix Jr. searching after Ralph in order to save his arcade cabinet from being shut down.  Along the way he runs into the Jane Lynch character, who is a big-breasted blond action girl sterotype, but even that is still miles ahead in terms of humanity than Samus' characterization in "Metroid Other M".  Yeah, I still have a chip on my shoulder about "Metroid Other M", and if you played that game you'll know why.  Jane Lynch's character isn't quite Samus and Fix-It Felix isn't quite Mario, but they're close enough.  And they have a strange romance but endearing romance that actually ends in a wedding and many kisses***.  These characters are so mismatched, its endearing.  Also its Jane Lynch, the funniest woman alive, basically the exact comedic opposite of Sarah Silverman.

If I did have to complain about things - and I do - my one issue would be that a lot of the Sarah Silverman jokes are really lazy.  Her giggling over the word "duty" or giving Ralph silly First Grade insult are just stupid.  After awhile the very very long stretches in Candyland started to dig at me, because the movie felt like it could have had much more environmental variety, but instead we spend 90% of the movie in just one world.

However, my biggest complaint comes from the fact that this arcade lacks a cabinet for "The Ocean Hunter", the greatest arcade game ever made!  How can we ignore the pure light-gun perfection that is "The Ocean Hunter"!?

I suppose in the end there was no way I would not have enjoyed "Wreck-It Ralph".  The movie is more or less pure video game nerd fanservice, but also has a great plot where every piece winds up fitting together nicely.  There are twists I didn't expect, and a few funny subversions of Disney tradition.  One character finds out at the end that she's a Disney Princess, and immediately kicks the dress off so that she can instead make her video game world a Republic.  Whoever said that video game movies always have to suck were simply misguided.  Yeah, "Super Mario Bros" sucked, and so did about a million other video game movies, but none of those had the love and cleverness of "Wreck-It Ralph".

* And while on break my local theater now has a super cheap student discount, meaning that movies are about half as expensive as they were at school.

** I'm not really sure what Sonic and Dr. Robonik are doing here either, since I don't believe there has ever been an arcade version of "Sonic the Hedgehog", and if there actually is one, its never been in the US.

*** Obviously if the real Mario and Samus were in this game, they wouldn't be allowed to kiss because Nintendo has a bizarre hang-up about direct sexual contact, even if it just First Base.  But they can have a deeply unhealthy abusive Electra Complex relationship between Samus and Adam, because that's perfectly fine for the kids.



    I literally have been entirely unable to read your blog until you made this review. I just kept checking and saying "no Ralph, won't read until Ralph"

    Now I can read the rest of your stuff!

    Anyway, Early Merry Christmas Blue. Here's my gift to you, hope you haven't seen it already
    Sadly, it may never be finished as the animator has gone to other projects, but it is a fun watch.

  2. Also, hate to double post, but I absolutely agree with you on "Paperman" That short made me tear up it was so beautiful, and I too believe it to be well worth the price of admission. And more.

  3. Oh nice! Yeah, I loved both of the main animated movies that came out this year (this and Rise of the Guardians from Dreamworks). They've been a lot better than the previous couple years, which have left me a little uninterested, but 2012 was great for animated movies in my opinion.

  4. Yeah! Glad you like the movie Blue. I still remember acting like a little kid when ever a classic character would pop up. Also if you buy the dvd freeze frame the picture when they are about to enter game central and you'll see a Final Fantasy and Zero Wing Easter egg on the wall.

  5. He "goes Turbo," not "maverick."

    1. I'm presuming the author is making a facetious reference to Mega Man X as a substitution, but I'll leave that to him to clarify.

  6. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Sgt Calhoun supposed to be a parody of Commander Shepard from Mass Effect? She sure looks the same, apart from the hair colour. I doubt it's a coincidence. Anyway I think I'm gonna wait till this is out on BluRay, I don't want to see it dubbed into Finnish.

  7. Look up "Sonic the Fighters". You'll find your Sonic arcade game.

  8. Shepard can be a guy or a girl. You choose at the start of the first game. If you look at the box art of Mass Effect 3, Commander Shepard does look a lot like Calhoun. Or vice versa.