Games & misfits (review)

Posted: February 15, 2013

Wreck-It-Ralph is stylish, witty & fun

It’s a film about retro video games mixed with modern-day technology conceived and created in order to appeal to both young and old.  Witty, imaginative, and artistically striking, it’s not only fresh, but a gradual journey of self-acceptance.  Set to be released on DVD  March 5, Wreck-It-Ralph, Disney’s newest animation movie, is a clever, quirky addition to the long line of Disney animated movies.

Delivering a story about acceptance, the film introduces Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly), an arcade villain with clobbering fists and a misunderstood heart. His want for recognition amongst the other characters in his gaming system drives him to begin jumping through other games within the arcade in order to find a way to prove himself to the others that his bad-guy exterior doesn’t reflect his actual persona. Within his travels, he scavenges through the likes of a science fiction FPS and a candy-themed racing game where he meets Vanellope (Sarah Silverman), a glitch and fellow outcast.

The story progresses to one that preaches (a bit too blatantly at some points) the value of accepting yourself as who you are and not how others see you, as well as working hard and believing in your own strengths and weaknesses.

For the past four years, Disney has abided in its comfort zone with fairy tale-based films (The Princess and the Frog and Tangled) and the recreation of classic stories of its past (Winnie the Pooh). In a hope of stepping out, the animation studios at Walt Disney turned its cheek toward a fresher, more unique story unfamiliar to its audience (which in this age of cinema is a difficult feat to achieve with so many remakes and sequels released in hopes of garnering previous audiences). Wreck-It-Ralph was their answer to fulfill this achievement.

Movies and video games have a difficult and messy relationship. Most video games converted to movies (Super Mario Bros, Silent Hill, Doom) are panned critically. The same goes for movies and their video game counterparts, which do little but attract attention to the movie itself as a kind of marketing ploy. Wreck-It-Ralph gives both gamers and cinephiles something to mutually agree upon: it’s a movie about video games with video game references and characters in it, and it displays this array of vibrant cameos with class and humor that doesn’t stale or bitter.

Recognizable faces such as Bowser (the villain from the Super Mario franchise) and Sonic the Hedgehog are amongst gaming hints, as well as smaller traces of gaming-lore like the infamous Konami Code. Along with these throwback acknowledgements, the film also portrays new, fun characters and ideas that help create an imaginative, technological world that intermingles classic and contemporary gaming. So whether it’s the characters, the story, the drama, the graphics, or the humor, there’s a little something for everybody in the energetic world of Wreck-It Ralph.

One of the main highlights in films are the soundtracks, which makes it a shame that they become less appreciated. Composer Henry Jackman wrote the score for Wreck-It-Ralph, a score that bleeps and bloops and bounces and synthesizes with the earworm glitchiness of eight-bit and electronica. It sounds like it could feel at home both on an NES or a newly released synthpop album. Jackman’s score is a (most likely) underappreciated gem that any should listen to. It seems like Disney is entering a new golden age. And while many will argue when it began, there’s no denying that Wreck-It-Ralph, despite its glitches, belongs on the list of great entertainment that also provides an important lesson to remember.

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