Have you ever felt unappreciated and frustrated? Ralph, the villain of the video game “Fix-it Felix Jr.” from Disney’s new animation “Wreck-it Ralph,” is looked down upon by everybody for just doing his job: wrecking buildings before Felix, the hero, fixes them. For 30 years, Ralph did his same job, never getting a word of thanks from anyone.
Ralph is a massive, sloppy man reminiscent of Neanderthal with gorilla-like arms, and always wearing ragged cloth. He sleeps in a bed of crushed bricks while the rest of the “Fix-it Felix” video game characters make their homes in the lavish penthouse full of Champaign and lovely decoration. Tired of being isolated, under-appreciated, and stereotyped as a “Bad Guy,” he tries to turn a new leave by attenpting to win a gold medal for bravery as a “Good Guy.” Jumping from one arcade video game to another, Ralph wanders from the battleground game of “Hero’s Duty” where super-soldiers fight off extraterrestrial bugs, to the candy-coated wonderland of “Sugar Rush,” a racing game that hides a dark secret.
Unknowingly, Ralph releases an ancient, terrifying evil that threatens to jeopardize the safety of the entire arcade. Along the way, Ralph meets a lot of colorful characters, such as Sargent Calhoun, the no-nonsense leader of an army of super-soldiers from “Hero’s Duty,” Vanellope, a little girl whose steadfast will is to race in the “Sugar Rush” game. He is frustrated that he couldn’t be who he wants to be and do the things he wants to do. That’s when Ralph realized that he can start a new life in a new game by being his true self.
“Wreck-it Ralph” is accompanied by a delightful, elegant, mostly black-and-white Disney Short, “Paperman,” about a young man who is brought to his true love by his magical paper airplanes. “Paperman” which I saw four times (at Wreck-it Ralph press screening, Animation Show of Shows, and Platform Festival), is the best animation short I have seen this year, and I belive it has a high chance for an Oscar nomination! It blends hand-drawn and CG animation seemlessly. I enjoyed interviewing first-time director John Kahrs at the Platform International Animation Festival in Hollywood recently, and will write a separate review shortly.
I love “Wreck-it Ralph,” one of the greatest films this year, and the best Disney animation since "Tangled." For some adults, this film may bring back some childhood nostalgia from playing arcade games, but not so much that it clouds out the storyline. The filmmakers have transformed lots of familiar 8-bit video game characters into fascinating personalities in a whole new way. Disney must have broken the bank, in gaining access to all these iconic legends of the 8-bit world, such as Sonic and Pacman. Just thinking about it makes my head spin…
The film is about social class and stereotypes (which I am learning in my 7th-grade English honors and world history class), friendship and individuality, and as Ralph would put it, “wrecking barriers.” It reminds me of Pixar’s “Toy Story,” both about playthings who come alive when people are not watching. I also enjoyed a rather humorous part, where Ralph joins other video game villains in a gathering called “badanon.” I noticed the pop cultural reference on psychotherapy. I also noticed that Ralph looks similar to John C. Reilly, the acclaimed actor and voice for Ralph whom I had fun interviewing at the 2010 Los Angeles Film Festival (LAFF) for his lead role in “Cyrus” which had its Hollywood premiere at the festival. He did a super job as Ralph.
I would have given the film 4.5 instead of 4 starfish if it didn’t have the cheesy, implausible romance involving Fix-it Felix, who got married to someone he barely knew, in less than a day! Can you imagine that?!
I played “Fix-it Felix” video game online and thought it is quite difficult, since Ralph can wreck faster than I can play. Computer games could be fun if played in moderation as they give kids childhood wonder and enjoyment. I dont’ have Wii, X-Box, or Play Station at home. I spend most of my free time making art and animation, watching and review movies, and exercising. I hope kids won’t get addicted to video games after watching “Wreck-it Ralph.”
I recommend the film to kids age 6 and up because there are a few intense battle scenes. “Wreck-it Ralph” is an action-packed adventure, filled with humor, sorrow, and triumph.
Moral: Labels do not define who you are. Be who you want to be!
Copyright by Perry S. Chen 2012