Wreck-It Ralph is everything you might expect it to be. You have Disney struggling to live up to Pixar’s legacy (which is even more apparent with the movie’s Toy Story-esque tale) and a bunch of partially accurate video game references coupled with star actors and licensed video game characters. However, even though Disney struggles, Wreck-It Ralph manages to land nicely between nerd culture and the rest of society.
Wreck-It Ralph starts off with the title character elaborating on his terrible living conditions, being limited to the status of villain and alienated from the other characters within an arcade game called Fix-It Felix, a game that is reminiscent of Donkey Kong and Rampage. Turns out that when everyone leaves the arcade, the toys– I mean arcade characters– spring to life and begin interacting with one another. They hang out and attend anonymous support groups to help accept their roles within their respective games, and the mish-match of licensed video game and fictional characters have a well established society built of laws that, if broken, threaten the lives of its many citizens.
Because Fix-It Felix’s citizens resent him, Ralph decides to leave his game in search of a means to a better life. However, when he leaves the arcade owner labels the Fix-It Felix booth dysfunctional because Ralph’s absence crumbles its sellable hero-versus-villain status quo. As he jumps between games, Ralph sets off a series of events that lead to a decently entertaining story that caters to adults as well as children.
But I don’t think we are here for the general movie critic review here, are we? As with me, you are probably curious as to how well Wreck-It Ralph represent games and the gaming community. The only way to describe it is passable. Clearly the Disney team have played games, but are definitely not avid gamers. The “Villains Anonymous” meeting that drew so much attention to the movie in its trailers shows this. Zangief, who isn’t even a villain in the Street Fighter universe anyway, says he crushes people’s heads between his legs when we all know him for his gentler bear-hugging qualities. Sure this might be nitpicky, but little details like that matter to a gamer and would establish the director/writer Rich Moore as having valid insight if he had gotten it right. Other things like labeling incomplete content as glitches (such as seen in the character Venelope) or somehow casually drifting from game references to candy endorsement can be jarring for those of us in the know.
Luckily for Disney, it seems Moore was aware of his audience and was attempting to simplify things so that the general public might better grasp Wreck-It Ralph’s more technical concepts. Moore’s pacing also keeps the story engaging. When I went in, I expected Ralph to be jumping from game to game to game to game to the point that it would be oversaturated with references and have little space for actual character/story development but Moore seems to have maintained his focus and created a legitimate story-driven movie. It’s not fan service. Though I am not much of a John C. Reilly fan, he and the rest of the cast including Alan Tudyk (I love this guy), Jane Lynch, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, and that Allstate guy do a fantastic job at bringing their characters to life.
You will enjoy combing the screen for the next video game reference . There are obvious ones like Street Fighter and Pacman, but also less noticeable ones like Final Fantasy VII and Joust. It will probably require multiple viewings to “catch ‘em all.”
In the end, Wreck-It Ralph is impressive. Not only does it have a great story, but manages to set up a world that is believable and palpable. Though some of its factual inaccuracies hold it back from being entirely true to games, the movie represents them well enough to cater to fans of the titles it possesses. It also manages to provide a more mature story on discrimination and role acceptance that is easy to digest. However, by the end of the film you might feel that the meaning is lost in the conclusion. Regardless, I am here to tell you that you can go see Wreck-It Ralph without fear. It might not have a plethora of licensed video game characters or a revolutionary story, but does enough to satisfy your demands.