For 30 years, Wreck-It Ralph has played the villain inside an arcade video game. Each time a child puts a quarter into the machine, he starts smashing a high-rise apartment building. As the residents begin to panic, out pops “Fix-It Felix” with his magic hammer to repair the damage Wreck-It Ralph has done. At the end of the game, Ralph is banished, while Felix is showered with praise and given a bright, shiny medal.
The only problem is, when the arcade closes and all the characters inside the games come to life, similar to “Toy Story,” Ralph still is ostracized, and he’s beginning to grow tired of feeling so lonely. He wants to escape from the “bad guy” label, and he longs to have friends and be accepted like Felix. So, Ralph decides to break the rules and venture outside his own video game and into “Hero’s Duty,” a modern first-person shooter game, where he hopes to win a medal of his own. However, things don’t go quite as well as he planned, and his actions threaten not just his own game, but all of the other games in the arcade.
Disney’s Oscar-nominated animated movie “Wreck-It Ralph” was released on DVD this week, and it’s a clever, charming film that appeals to both younger viewers and adult gamers who remember going to arcades when they were kids. If you didn’t get a chance to catch it in theaters, it’s well worth renting.
Ralph’s journey takes him inside several different video games in the arcade, including “Hero’s Duty” and a candy and dessert themed racing game called “Sugar Rush.” Inside “Sugar Rush,” Ralph meets a character named Vanellope von Schweetz, a “glitch” who isn’t allowed to race in the game. Though Vanellope drives him crazy at first, their eventual friendship causes Ralph to rethink his purpose inside his own game and to make peace with Fix-It Felix.
My favorite part of “Wreck-It Ralph” was, without question, the visual effects. The animation is colorful and eye-catching, and I loved how the film makers created a unique environment for each video game. Wreck-It Ralph’s own game reminds viewers of some of the early video games with simple graphics, such as “Pac-Man,” and “Hero’s Duty” represents today’s slickly-designed, high-resolution games. The soundtrack of the film also is fun, very reminiscent of classic video game music.
While there are plenty of great cameos from famous video game characters — Pac-Man, Sonic the Hedgehog and Q*bert are just a few — “Wreck-It Ralph” introduces some memorable new characters, as well. Wreck-It Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) really isn’t a villainous “bad guy,” and while he may have a temper, he also has a lot of heart. Jane Lynch voices a tough, take-no-prisoners soldier named Sergeant Calhoun from “Hero’s Duty” who shoots off commands and insults as fast as she fires bullets, and Jack McBrayer is humorous as the dedicated and occasionally a bit too earnest Fix-It Felix, who develops a crush on Calhoun.
One concept I wish the film makers had explored a little more is the impact of the shift from simpler games like Pac-Man to today’s complex first-person shooters, and how home gaming systems have drawn customers away from arcades. With intense, fast-paced modern video games, we’ve perhaps lost some of the innocence and fun of those early games. This idea is touched on a few times during the film but never really fleshed out.
While “Wreck-It Ralph” doesn’t pack quite the same emotional punch as Pixar’s “Toy Story” films, I still very much enjoyed it. “Wreck-It Ralph” is a creative and fun film, and a treat for anymore who loves classic video games.