Cinematic Magic with Michael Ching: ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ is a smashing success

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One of the best things about “Wreck-It Ralph” is that the best parts weren’t shown in the trailer.
Being that that’s a rarity for movies nowadays, this animated feature thrives on quick references and unexpected cameos (one of which isn’t from a video game. You’ll know it when you see it). And in a film that feeds off of nostalgia and gaming knowledge, these aspects become all too important in providing authenticity.
“Wreck-It Ralph” takes place in the world of video games at the fictional Litwak’s Arcade; it centers on Ralph, the “bad guy” from an 8-bit video game called Fix-It Felix, Jr. After 30 years of destroying a building just so Felix can repair it, he starts to feel a little underappreciated. Seeing that Felix gets a medal every time he succeeds, Ralph thinks his respect will be earned if he grabbed some gold for himself. This puts him on a journey that leads him to Hero’s Duty, a sci-fi first-person shooter featuring impending peril, frenetic violence and high-definition graphics, all of which scare the pixels out of him.
After escaping Hero’s Duty, he stumbles into Sugar Rush Speedway, a game that combines the backdrop of Candy Land with the action of Mario Kart, and crosses paths with a feisty little girl named Vannelope Von Schweetz. Her existence is a glitch in the game’s code; all she wants is to be a playable character, so she and Ralph embark on an adventure that ultimately involves racing (of course), a villain from Litwak’s past, and Mentos.
The story and animation are both familiar territory. The tone and flow are nothing new. Where this movie succeeds is in breathing new life into usual animated fare by breaking into the untapped world of video games. What video games provide is an excuse for characters to jump around different, unrelated environments; each game has its own set of rules, from how characters move to how much of its landscape is seen by the player. The best part about this is that viewers get to see contrasting universes flow smoothly through a consistent storyline.
Every detail has been accounted for, not just in textures and environments, but also in subtler, yet amusing ways. If you pay enough attention, you’ll notice that the Pac Man ghost can only move up, down or sideways, and that every time Felix uses his hammer, the coin sound effect can be heard. Details like these give the film a sense of authenticity, reminding us that we are definitely immersed in this virtual world.
Each main voice actor fits their respective characters like a glove. John C. Reilly gave Ralph the gruff, yet sensitive voice he needed to make him a lovable protagonist. Jane Lynch breathed life into her role as Hero’s Duty’s Sergeant Calhoun, while Jack McBrayer played Felix to absolute perfection.
But the standout among all the actors was Sarah Silverman in her role as the mischievous Vannelope Von Schweetz. While most animated films cast a child or someone with a soft voice in such a role, the casting department decided to use the only person that could provide the amount of cuteness and attitude needed to portray her. Vannelope’s voice is raspy and sometimes nasally; her lines are delivered with outstanding comedic timing and she never seems detached from her role as Ralph’s lovable sidekick.
It is not a Pixar-quality film, but luckily, it doesn’t try to be. It’s an entertaining hour and a half and an effective escape into a world many of us grew up with and loved. Disney has found a way to keep the underdog-looking-for-a-purpose story fresh; even if you can’t agree with some of their recent business decisions and acquisitions, I would say they’re doing a pretty good job in that department.


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