So here’s the deal: Life isn’t easy for Wreck-It-Ralph. Every day, he destroys the same apartment building, only to have Fix-it-Felix fix it and toss him into the mud. Ralph wants to stop, but, as an arcade game antagonist, breaking things is literally his 9-to-5 job. Without him, the game wouldn’t be fun, so when he leaves to finally earn himself a medal, everything in the entire arcade falls apart.
But chances are, if you were following the press buildup for Wreck-It-Ralph, you weren’t really concerned about the plot. Ads and articles often honed in on the classic video game references. Well, here’s the truth: If you’re coming to the theater hoping to see nothing more than Mario jokes and Dance Dance Revolution cutscenes, you’re coming to the wrong movie. Okay, the film does feature cameos by everyone from Bowser to Dr. Robotnik to Rootbeer Tapper, but it’s also a lot more than just that.
It’s a story about self-respect and friendship that has some of the most brilliant plot buildup of any film I’ve seen in a while—animated or otherwise. Although the plot (as I’ve recounted in the first paragraph) seems simple enough, the movie has a dizzying amount of subplots and backstories. Balancing them is a difficult feat, but the writers manage to pull off the requisite act better than I could’ve hoped.
You see, for a kids’ movie, I really felt like Wreck-It-Ralph gave me the respect I deserved. Rather than sit me down and explain things like backstory and the rules of Ralph’s arcade universe, these elements are woven into the dialogue, with no interruptions to what feels like organic conversations between good friends. Of course, making the characters seem like friends is helped by the fantastic voice cast. John C. Reilly gives Ralph the perfect air of bitter self-doubt and Jack McBrayer plays cloying do-gooders better than anyone else. And of course, leave it to Sarah Silverman to make me love Vanellope, a character who could so easily have become annoying, given her bratty attitude. Firefly’s Alan Tudyk also does a startlingly-good Mad Hatter impersonation as King Candy—he really should do more voice acting work.
Plus, the animation is gorgeous. In a clever move, Ralph and Felix move around like sprites, bouncing across the screen with limitless energy, whereas newer characters like Jane Lynch’s Sgt. Calhoun are more reserved. This dichotomy between “new” and “old” video games and the worlds in which they are set gives the animation an amazing amount of variety, which ensures that there’s always something cool to look at.
Let me put it this way: if you have any attachment to video games, you owe it to yourself to see this movie. But if you have any attachment to writing, voice acting, animation or entertainment in general, you really owe it to yourself to see this.