Many of us parents have to see our share of family films. The advertisements bombard our television screens which lead to the “Can we go, Can we go?” conversation that follows. Now I have no problem going to see a quality animated family film, but many parents cringe at the idea and play hot potato with their kids over who’s going to take them. Can you blame them? For every Up or Toy Story there’s a plethora of terrible family films such as the Ice Age or Madagascar franchises. This weekend the roles are reversed when the children of the 1980’s finally have a family film they are dying to see with the video game mash-up Wreck-It Ralph.
Wreck-it Ralph tells the story of an 8-bit video game villain named Ralph. Ralph is this nemesis of Fix-It Felix Jr. and the game he is named after. Ralph has played the role of the Donkey Kong like villain for 30 years, even though behind the scenes he is a nice guy longing to be loved. So Ralph decides to abandon his game and become the hero he’s always dreamed of being. The underrated John C. Reilly voices the sympathetic Ralph and does a great job conveying the loneliness of the big handed fellow.
Wreck-it Ralph is also a triumph for Walt Disney Animations Studios that were on life support for a while due to the success of Pixar, another Disney owned property. This could be the film that helps further the comeback of a once proud and respected animation studio that was an after thought during Pixar’s decade long domination. The animation is on par with Pixar as it jumps from the loveable 8-bit arcade classics, first person shooter games and to the colorful candy themed racing game “Sugar Rush”. Most of the second and third act take place in the racing game where Ralph meets Vanellope the glitch (Voiced by Sarah Silverman). Keep an eye out for some great junk food gags as well during the time spent in “Sugar Rush”.
The story is top-notch and fans of retro games are going to eat up the nostalgia like Pac-Man tripping on power pellets. Most of your favorite games and characters from the past make cameos in the film. The Street Fighter gang is present in a hilarious scene with the villains in a support group led by Clyde the ghost from Pac-Man. Dig-Dug, Joust, and even the gang from Q*bert show up as vagrants who’s game has been shut off. Apparently there is a language called Q*bertnese that I have to buy the Rosetta Stone for. One of my favorite nods to the retro games I loved as a kid was Tapper, the bar all the characters hang out at.
My one disappointment with the film is the absence of two video game icons. Mario and Luigi are nowhere to be found. The brother’s world is present with Bowser and power-up mushrooms, but the Italian plumbers are missing in action. When you get to the “Sugar Rush” sequences you can totally see it was meant to be Mario Kart. Naming rights inevitably kept the brothers out, which is a shame since both Pac-Man and Sonic are present, if only briefly.
Even with the exclusion of the heroic plumbers, I can say with a doubt, Wreck-it Ralph is the best animated family film I have seen since the Oscar nominated Toy Story 3. Who hasn’t felt underappreciated at their job and wishes they could be doing something else with their lives. I know I have. Ralph realizes that we all have a job to do, whether we like or not. So instead of being glum, try to find something in that job you love. Let that one thing be the reason that makes you come to work everyday and have a smile on your face while doing the job you have to do.
Some may call me bias being a video game lover and a child of the 80’s and their entitled to their opinion. One thing I know for sure. Wreck-It Ralph has given myself and many other gamers something we’ve been wanting for years. A video game movie we can all love. I give Wreck-It Ralph 3 big potatoes.