Originally written for my University paper
The theatrical release of “Wreck-It Ralph” could not have come at a better time. In the midst of the devastation left by hurricane Sandy, it offers audiences an escapist thrill ride that is sweet and entertaining. From a more critical perspective, however, “Wreck-It Ralph” lacks the depth that could have marked it as an exceptional film.
The story follows Ralph (John C. Reilly), the villain of an arcade game “Fix-It Felix, Jr.,” who is ostracized in his game for his villainy. He embarks on a mission to earn their acceptance and along the way teams up with Venellope (Sarah Silverman), a character in the game “Sugar Rush” who is also shunned by her fellow avatars for being a glitch.
The film has a lot going for it. The premise is original and I appreciate that the film fully commits to depicting a world that is part digital and part physical, all located inside a video game. The movie is also superbly cast. Reilly and Silverman deliver as two lovable misfits; and Jack McBrayer is spot-on as the squeaky-clean Felix Jr. I can’t think of anyone better suited to voice Sergeant Calhoun, essentially a digitized Sue Sylvester, than Jane Lynch.
My problem with “Wreck-It Ralph” is that for a premise that deals mainly with ostracism, the movie has the potential for depth but opts to take the light, fluffy route instead. The movie contains a familiar but endearing theme of self-acceptance. Both Ralph and Venellope have to embrace the very abilities that have marked them as outcasts to save the day. My problem with these epiphanies is that in this instance they aren’t set up as well as they could have been. Ralph’s motivation in the film isn’t so much that he doesn’t want to be the bad guy anymore, it’s that he wants to be accepted by others. By the end of the film, he is accepted without having to give up his villainous ways. There is no real character development. It would have been more interesting if Ralph had set out to change his identity, in which case his recitation of the Bad Guy Anonymous mantra of self-acceptance in the film’s climax would have carried much more weight.
The fact is, in an industry as prolific as children’s entertainment, a movie can’t expect to be remembered for very long unless it offers something beyond the fun and laughs that all children’s films contain. Movies like “Finding Nemo,” “Wall-E,” “Up,” “How To Train Your Dragon” and “Toy Story 3” were successful because, while they are entertaining, they also include some level of depth and darkness as well. The fact that “Wreck-It Ralph” fails to follow in this vein probably wouldn’t bother me so much if I didn’t feel the movie had so much potential.
Overall, I liked “Wreck-It Ralph.” It’s a fun, visually impressive movie with an original premise and a great cast. If nothing else, I can guarantee you that after watching it you will never look at an arcade the same way again.