I played my first video game on the Commodore 64 my grandparents bought for us when I was five. It took me a while to wear my parents down, but eventually I managed to get a Nintendo for our house, followed by a Sega Genesis, a Super Nintendo, and so on. What I’m getting at is that I was a child of the gaming 90s, so when I saw how many of my favorite games had cameos in Wreck It Ralph, I just had to go. Though to be fair, the Disney story would have hooked me anyway.
A destructive bad guy in an arcade game longs for friends and praise, so he leaves his game to earn a hero’s medal in another, throwing the whole arcade into disarray.
As I suspected, though Wreck It Ralph is billed as a kids’ movie, the setting and characters are obviously geared toward the children of the 80s and 90s, who are now twenty and thirtysomethings with kids of their own. This doesn’t mean today’s kids won’t enjoy it, it just means that you can take your kids and everyone will have a great time.
Wreck it Ralph opens with a terrific animated short with a 1950s feel called Paper Man, which features a paper-pushing desk jockey who tries to get the attention of the girl he met on a subway platform with paper airplanes.
I love shorts. More shorts!
Ralph (John C. Reilly) is the ham-fisted villain in an older, 80s-style arcade came called Fix-It Felix Jr. which bears some similarities to Donkey Kong Jr. His job it to wreck the apartment building that was built on top of his former forest home so that Felix (Jack McBrayer) – as the player character – can come along and repair it with his magic hammer. Felix gets a medal, Ralph gets to go home to sleep at the dump by himself.
Woneweeee so woneweeeee….
Feeling unappreciated and friendless, Ralph joins Bad-Anon, a support group for video game villains. Here’s where you parents will recognize the icons of your childhood – Clyde the ghost from Pac-Man, M.Bison from Street Fighter, Bowser from Mario Bros., and so on. The general consensus is that Ralph should be happy with himself and not “go Turbo” which is their name for going nuts and abandoning your game.
As Zangief says: Just because you are the Bad Guy, doesn’t mean you are a bad guy.
When the people in the apartment building throw an anniversary party for Felix and don’t invite Ralph, it’s the last straw. After the arcade is closed for the night and he can move around freely, Ralph sneaks into Hero’s Duty, a first person shooter based on the Halo/powered armor space marines genre.
Unsurprisingly, the NPC Ralph steals his armor from has PTSD
His goal is to win a medal, but in the process he looses a cybug (which is like a virus) in a candy based racing game called Sugar Rush (based on Candy Land crossed with Mario Kart). Ralph’s medal is “borrowed” by Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) a peppy little girl who uses it as her entry fee into the race that will determine who’s on tomorrow’s player roster. As a rejected, glitchy character that’s not supposed to exist, she needs Ralph’s help to win the race and become a part of the game for real, even though King Candy (Alan Tudyk), his sidekick Sour Bill (Rich Moore) and the other kid racers are all working against her.
But really, look at her. Who could resist that level of cuteness?
While Ralph is making his first friend (and, incidentally, becoming someone’s hero for real) his counterpart Felix has teamed up with Calhoun (Jane Lynch), the guide character from Hero’s Duty, to find and destroy the cybug and get Ralph back to his game.
Maybe if I use my magic hammer on your tragic back story, you won’t be so cranky?
So the story is pretty simple and so is the message – don’t leave people out of the fun. Everybody should have friends. Which leaves us plenty of time to enjoy all the fantastic, clever, hilarious jokes that this movie is loaded with. Writers Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee are obviously well acquainted with video games, because their satire is dead on. In Hero’s Duty, the player character is a robot with a TV screen for a face.
It’s a noob! We’re doomed!
The police characters in Sugar Rush don’t just eat donuts – the ARE donuts. Felix and his apartment dwelling pals move in a jerky, 80s graphics sort of way when they dance, and characters from old games like Q*bert are homeless and living in Game Central Station, otherwise known as the power bar.
That’s the rest of the Q*bert cast there with him: Coily, Sam, and Ugg
along with (I think) Bub from Bubble Bobble.
By far the funniest thing in the movie for me as a writer, though, was when we found out about Calhoun’s “most tragic back story ever,” which involved bug aliens eating her fiancé during their wedding ceremony and makes fun of the Samus Aran back story from the Metroid games as well as every main character back story in almost every game ever made.
Mentally scarred and ready for duty!
I was laughing pretty much non-stop throughout this movie, and when I wasn’t laughing I was going “awww” because the love story (Calhoun and Felix) and the friendship story (Vanellope and Ralph) were both so cute. Cute and funny – that’s the height of achievement for me, so I loved Wreck-It Ralph. It may even be one of the best movies I’ve seen this year, so I’ll tell you to go to it, whether you’ve got kids or not. Just a warning, though. It may make you feel guilty for unplugging or throwing away all your old video games.