I’m Gonna Wreck It!

Wreck-It Ralph proved video games could be just as enjoyable on the big screen. As long as they’re about video games and not an adaptation of one. Walt Disney animation’s fifty-second outing Wreck-It Ralph is unlike anything the studio had done up to this point. Disney never swayed away from current day, but this was the first to feel distinctly modern. Wreck-It Ralph is deeply rooted in video game mythology. The idea was understandably thought up in the late 80’s. Going by the names High Score, Joe Jump, and Reboot Ralph. Until John Lasseter pitched Wreck-It Ralph as something similar to Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Toy Story. Like those 2 movies, Wreck-It Ralph asks the question, what if video game characters came to life?

Main characters are entirely original, but officially licensed video game characters appear as well. Pop culture nods and edgy humor make it understandable that this was Simpsons director Rich Moore’s first movie. Although the Revival era was already in full effect, Wreck-It Ralph really set the standard moving forward. With Winnie the Pooh closing the door on traditional animation, Wreck-It Ralph evolved its computer animation even more. Despite Pixar continuing to dominate, I really feel like it was the most worthy Disney film to win Best Animated Feature up to that point. Alas, Wreck-It Ralph had to settle for putting video game based movies on a whole other level…

79. Wreck-it-Ralph

Ralph helps Vanellope learn to race

Wreck-It-Ralph quickly became my favorite video game movie. I’ve never considered myself to be a hardcore gamer, but there’s no way my brother and I wouldn’t go see it. Of course I’ve played all the arcade classics and know enough about iconic characters to get by. The best thing about Wreck-It Ralph is that you don’t have to be part of the gaming community to enjoy it. My parents had very limited video game knowledge, but that didn’t stop them from liking it when I showed it to them. Not that I didn’t see plenty of gaming nerds in the theater. Wreck-It ralph takes place in an old fashioned arcade called Litwak’s. Video game characters treat their console like a job. Relaxing as soon as the arcade closes. A power strip acts as a sort of train station where characters can visit other games. Another clever detail is that dying in your game will make you regenerate.

Since gaming is just a job, Wreck-It Ralph starts to get tired of his. Ralph is a freakishly big villain in overalls modeled after Donkey Kong. Despite his designation, Ralph is the kind hearted protagonist. John C. Reilly fit the role and some of his facial features can be seen in Ralph. Ralph’s game is Fix-It Felix Jr. Something Disney turned into a real playable game as a promotion. Also similar to Donkey Kong with Mario type repairman Fix-It Felix Jr. as the hero. You’d think that would make him antagonistic, but Felix is a nice guy just trying to do his job. With the innocent voice of Jack McBrayer to back it up. Really it’s the misnamed Nicelanders who treat Ralph like a villain. So Ralph visits the villain support group Bad-Anon to express his desire to win a medal and be a hero. Bad-Anon features several clever cameos from villains in Pac-Man, Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario Bros., etc. All with their classic non-Disneyfied appearances. Sonic and Pac-Man have memorable cameos, but Mario doesn’t appear for some reason.

One of the main video game struggles is having your game unplugged. Which results in characters like Q*bert being homeless. When Ralph isn’t even welcome at his own game’s 30 year anniversary party, he makes a plan to win his own medal. While having a root beer at Tappers, 8 bit Ralph switches places with a soldier from an ultraviolent high definition Halo & Call of Duty type game called Hero’s Duty. With a robotic first-person shooter and everything. Intense soldier Sgt. Calhoun leads an assault on Cy-Bugs with a mission that wins a medal. Calhoun is obviously modeled after her voice actress Jane Lynch. Unlike everyone else, Cy-Bugs are more like a virus that don’t know they’re in a game. They become what they consume and are only destroyed by a sky beacon. Ralph really messes up when he activates one after taking his medal.

An escape pod sends him ricocheting into the candy themed racing game Sugar Rush for a majority of the movie. The first half is heavy with video game references, but it’s all sugar puns from here on out. Meanwhile, the unlikely duo Felix & Calhoun set out to find Ralph. Calhoun wants to destroy the Cy-Bug before it can take over Sugar Rush and Felix needs Ralph back or else risk losing their game forever. A situation video game characters refer to as “Going Turbo.” Turbo being a jealous racer who abandoned his game to sabotage RoadBlasters. Despite one being a small cartoony 8 bit character and the other being a tall realistic HD character, Felix & Calhoun become an unexpectedly sweet romantic odd couple by the end. Ralph attempts to retrieve his medal in Sugar Rush, but he runs into Vanellope von Schweetz in the process. A supposed little kid who’s basically a miniature version of Sarah Silverman. Annoying at times, but ultimately a playful kid who just wants to race.

Vanellope’s only problem is her glitch. An intermittent glitch that makes her a criminal in Sugar Rush and bullied by the sweet but sour racers. Vanellope uses Ralph’s medal as a gold coin to enter a roster deciding race. King Candy is the main Disney villain with the goofy mannerisms of the Mad Hatter and voice of Alan Tudyk. Get used to seeing his name in Disney movies from here on out. Ralph sticks up for Vanellope and they form an unlikely duo with the goal to help her win the race in order to get his medal back. They build a kart in a minigame and they even start to bond in an immature, but heartfelt way. Avoiding King Candy’s detection in an unfinished bonus level with Mentos hanging over a Diet Coke hot spring. It’s here Ralph helps Vanellope learn to shut up and drive. Unfortunately, King Candy gets to Ralph and convinces him to wreck Vanellope’s kart or else risk her glitch getting the game unplugged. It’s tough to watch, but Ralph learns his lesson when he discovers the truth.

SPOILER ALERT! Ralph learns from sour ball henchman Sour Bill that King Candy reprogrammed the game’s code in order to remove Vanellope from Sugar Rush and keep everyone’s memory. Ralph has a more understanding Felix fix Vanellope’s kart and she enters the race. A candy coated thrill ride similar to Mario Kart. Vanellope uses her glitch to her advantage, but discovers something shocking in the process. King Candy became Disney’s first of many twist villains when he’s revealed to have been Turbo all along. Before that clever twist has time to sink in, the Cy-Bugs finally attack in devastating numbers. Eating Turbo and leaving Vanellope unable to finish the race or escape the game. Ralph has an idea, but a psychotic Cy-Bug Turbo comenses the boss level. Emotions really kick in when Ralph sacrifices himself by punching the Mentos into the Diet Coke in order to destroy the Cy-Bugs and Turbo. Vanellope rescues him last second and finally crosses the finish line.

Leading to the odd reveal that Vanellope is really a Princess. Although she chooses to keep her glitch and she’s embraced by gamers all throughout the arcade. Ralph is similarly embraced for his role as a villain and Vanellope’s friendship helps him feel like a better person. Wreck-It Ralph is great at giving pixelated video game characters emotions. Although it would’ve been unique to see, it’s better that they didn’t make Ralph entirely 8 bit. A character’s 8 bit form can only be seen on the gaming screen. Certain games still retain jerky movements as a fun nod to their mobility. The computer animation progressed to the point of practically using game engine software to better create environments. Although there’s limitless video game worlds to explore, Wreck-It Ralph explores just enough without sacrificing its heart. It’s not a musical, but the music still stands out. If it’s not pop songs like “Shut Up and Drive,” it’s fun Owl City originals like “When Can I See You Again.” Along with infectiously catchy video game themes like the Japanese “Sugar Rush” tune. Wreck-It Ralph wrecks the competition to become a Disney adventure worth inserting a quarter for.

80. Wreck-it-Ralph

Ralph attends a Bad-Anon meeting

Followed by: Ralph Breaks the Internet

2 thoughts on “I’m Gonna Wreck It!

  1. Great review! Wreck-It Ralph is one of my favorite films from the current revival era. As a gamer, I have picked up on many of the Easter eggs. But even after several watches, I still find more!

    Liked by 1 person

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