Saturday, November 3, 2012

"Wreck-It Ralph" is a colorful and immensely clever animated film

The last two years have not been great for animated movies. Cars 2, Kung Fu Panda 2, Madagascar 3 and Brave were decent films, but there hasn't been anything new or imaginative. So I was happy to have an animated movie that finally has some imagination to it. Wreck-It Ralph is not exactly new. I was telling my dad about the film in the car and he went through the entire film's ending. It is predictable; you can watch the trailers and know the ending. But it's the characters, the humor, and the endless action and fun that make Wreck-It Ralph a good animated movie worth seeing.

Wreck-It Ralph follows the title character (John C. Reilly) who is a video-game bad guy that is sick of being bad. He has done the same thing over and over (wreck the building and then fall off the building) in an old-school 8-bit arcade game called Fix-It Felix Jr. for the last 30 years. The townspeople of the game all look down on him and look up to Felix (Jack McBrayer). Eventually Ralph decides that he's sick of it and he leaves to get a medal from Hero's Duty (a first person-shooter/parody of today's games) to prove to the townspeople that he is just as good as Felix. Ralph fights with Sargent Calhoun (Jane Lynch) and then ends up in Sugar Rush, where he helps Vanellope Von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) build a car and become more than a glitch in the game.

The film has a lot going on. It is pure magic that it is able to juggle all these stories into a comprehensive narrative. The craziness is an advantage to the film as well. Wreck-It Ralph really does mirror a video game: it's crazy and in the scenes in Hero's Duty and Sugar Rush, there is flashes of hyper-kinetic action and extreme blast of gunfire (actually there's quite a bit of action). But Wreck-It Ralph is also very smart and very funny. The last time I saw a non-Pixar animated film as smart as this was 2010's Despicable Me.

Much of the humor is derived from video game references and in the Sugar Rush scenes, candy. The humor is so clever and a lot of it had me laughing very hard. There are references to the Wizard of Oz, Pacman, subtle Alien references, and just overall video game craziness. The film often is not as funny as it is clever. Not since Toy Story has there been a world so fully developed and thought out. The video game world has rules and they are very clever. The film is great in that respect but it is not without flaws.

The film clocks in at around 1hr, 41 minutes, which seems reasonable. It's just that they spend ten minutes too many in Sugar Rush. I felt that there was a ten minute burst where there wasn't much going on and there was a twist that I'm not sure needed to be there. I was checking my watch a couple times during that time period (my showing started about ten minutes too late) but the issues I had were quickly resolved and I was back to enjoying the film.

Another problem I had was the constant candy references in the script during sugar rush. It was pounded over and over to the point where the script was nothing but candy references. Sugar Rush was probably my least favorite part of the movie. It's designed beautifully and it is where that the characters are developed, but it runs pretty long during the duration of the film and I think that the screenwriters ran out of stuff to do. Too much of anything is a bad thing.

The cleverness of the film and the imagination is why I would recommend it. The film is a lot of fun. But director Rich Moore also creates a cast of dark and cynical characters that you root for. Vanellope and Ralph are both outcasts and you feel for them and while Felix has no dark past, Calhoun's husband was killed on their wedding day. So during the final montage of the film, I felt satisfied for all the characters and their (SPOILER BUT NOT REALLY) happy endings.

Wreck-It Ralph is the best animated movie of the year. It takes all the things that we can do with computer animation and makes a colorful film that is technologically a fantastic feat. The way the video games characters move is authentic and real. The film is immensely clever and fun to watch, and the references, while not all memorable will have you either chuckling or laughing out loud. Kids will like it, adults will like it and it is a great film for the whole family that can stand up with and beat this year's best in animated films. This is the kind of film Pixar should be making.

THE FINAL GRADE:  B+                                             (8/10)


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