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#10: Wreck-It Ralph

Director: Rich Moore

Starring (Voices): John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch

Wreck-It Ralph sort of hits a nostalgia nerve with me, harkening back to my 8th birthday party at the local arcade.  Back then, hours upon hours were spent pumping coins into arcade machines like The Simpsons and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  Nowadays, though I don’t consider myself a gamer, I think back fondly at the times in my childhood when I played regularly.  With Wreck-It Ralph, the video gaming generation of the 1980s and 90s has a Who Framed Roger Rabbit?-esque love letter to the historical 8-bit days.

Wreck-It Ralph tells the tale of Ralph, the bad guy in the Donkey Kongish arcade game “Fix-It Felix”.  Behind the glass of the arcade games lies a world as vivid and complex as our own, where all the machines are connected via the hub known as Game Central Station.  Ralph isn’t a bad guy by choice, but by trade, and after 25-plus years of playing the antagonist in his own life, has grown tired of being unappreciated.  Ralph makes a break for greener pastures and a shot at glory in a neighboring game, setting off a chain of events that may mean the end of his game and others around it.

The film is an interesting character study on Ralph, forced to do a job that makes him feel like an outcast.  Beyond the window dressing of familiar video game landscapes and tropes lies a story of labels and a sort of social stratification presented in a unique way.  Ralph yearns to be a good guy and everything that comes with that label; in his situation, it means moving from a rock pile to a penthouse and being adored by the other characters in his game.  It’s an underlying theme that permeates the story and it’s somewhat surprising that it comes from Disney.  It seems much more at home with Pixar.

The voice-acting is top-notch here.  John C. Reilly is born to play the titular Ralph, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the part was written with him in mind.  The supporting cast each turn in solid performances and each character seems tailored to each of their sensibilities.  The art is beautiful in the film and each game has its own unique palette.  It’s truly a wonder to see the difference between the 8-bit “Fix-It Felix” and the otherworldly dystopia of “Hero’s Duty”.

Wreck-It Ralph is an inventive animated film with great performances and some beautiful computer animated set pieces.  For a particular demographic, it will strike the nostalgic chord of spending your allowance on arcade games, but for everyone, it is a fun adventure.

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