‘Wreck-It Ralph’: A Love Letter from Our Childhood

By Tye Van Horn
Staff Writer

Conceptually “Wreck-It Ralph” seems an inevitable failure. It partners with a video game development company to work on a film filled with in-jokes for a niche audience. It’s protagonist is a bumbling brute who stumbles his way through the plot. The supporting role is a hyperactive nine-year-old whose sense of humor fits her age as she from her very first conversation starts by juvenility mimicking the main character. And as for the villain…well the main character is one so as far as the trailers suggest there isn’t an antagonist. The balance seems off the conflict seems trivial and the characters seem badly written and trite.

And despite all of that… this is a good movie. No, this is a great movie.
“Wreck-It Ralph” manages to forego any inherent intuition and delivers on everything it promises and then some. It is partnered by a separate industry and medium, yes, but Sega and Nintendo allow for their characters to be used in interesting and exciting ways while remaining supporting roles without being blatant and derivative. John C Reilly and Sarah Silverman voice act two extremely likable and relatable characters who keep the audience concerned with their woes without pandering. And the villain…well there is in fact a villain but it isn’t important or a focus of the movie.

One of the biggest strengths to the game is one of its apparent weaknesses. Video games aren’t as much of a niche as they used to be. Everyone knows who Bowser is. And while the children watching may squeak for joy at the sight of Sonic the Hedgehog many of the parents taking those children grew up with Pac-Man and can instantly recognize the Contra Code, a reference that may go right over many nine-year-olds’ heads. More importantly, the film knows how to appeal to those who are less experienced with the subject. The cameos aren’t the driving point of the story, but instead are more like a friendly nudge from your adolescent self. The world that moves the plot forward, however, is full of fictional games like a kart racing game called Sugar Rush, and a bug alien fight game called Hero’s Duty. These worlds and the people in them are filled with character with clever nudges and references to more relatable pieces of our childhood, like a pit filled with deadly Nesquik sand.

While the story doesn’t escape the bounds of predictability it does manage to create some seriously emotional moments. And I mean seriously emotional: prepare to cry. Possibly multiple times. The characters have an innocence that effectively reminds the older members of the audience of a time not so long ago, making it very difficult to not get attached to even the least likable of the characters. This all helps make you forget the flaws of the movie, of which there are surprisingly few for such an expansive world it creates. There aren’t all that many surprises and the ending does clean itself up a bit faster than it probably should have. The ethical dilemma presented midway through the story was quickly made black and white in order to progress the plot, cheapening the gravity of the main character’s choice as it is quickly reversed.

While the rewatch value of the film is mediocre and it doesn’t match the greatness of a Pixar movie at its best, Disney manages to make an exciting and interesting movie fun for parents and children alike. With that and the fantastic animated short preceding the movie, “Wreck-It Ralph” manages to become a fantastic bridge between the video game culture and pop culture at large and sits solidly as my pick for the best animated film of the year.

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