Film review: ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ starring John C. Reilly
Director: Rich Moore
Starring: John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, Alan Tudyk
We all have our roles in life, but as the movie Wreck-It Ralph points out, it’s important to know the difference between who you are and what you do.
In director Rich Moore’s Wreck-It Ralph, John C. Reilly stars as the voice of the villain, Wreck-It Ralph, from an eight-bit eighties-style game called Fix-It Felix, Jr.
As the villain, Ralph’s job is to wreck the game’s only building, an apartment filled with pixelated characters, so that the player can control Fix-It Felix, Jr., voiced by Jack McBrayer, into fixing everything back up (“You can fix it!!!”).
After the arcade closes, all the happy eight-bit citizens spend their time in the apartment building, but Ralph, as the villain, is definitely not welcome. Ralph’s home is not inside the apartment he wrecks each day–he lives outside on the trash heap of broken bricks across the street.
Annoyed one night though, Ralph decides to join his fellow game villains at their support group, Bad-Anon, where he gets the idea that maybe he can change. Maybe he could even be a hero.
Arriving back at his own game, on the day of the game’s 30th anniversary, Ralph confronts the other characters and makes a bet that he can win a medal, like the one Felix wins every day in their game, and if he can, the other characters have to welcome him into the building.
Venturing out to find a medal, Ralph discovers that the players in another modern game, called Hero’s Duty, win a medal for defeating hordes of vicious bugs, so he decides to try being a hero. Dressing up like one of the characters from the game, Ralph finds a way to sneak in and take the medal, but in taking the prize he also ends up awakening the bugs.
Leaping into an escape pod, he gets thrown out of Hero’s Duty and into the super sweet racing world of Sugar Rush, where he inadvertently lets one of the bugs loose and meets a character–Vanellope von Schweetz, voiced by Sarah Silverman–who needs his help.
The premise of Wreck-It Ralph is fairly original, showing us what life is like for the characters within the games, including what happens to characters like Q*bert who were unplugged a long time ago. As a game fanatic, I also appreciate that Wreck-It Ralph shows some love to these classic game characters, like Bowser from Super Mario Bros., or M. Bison from Street Fighter (voiced by the original actor from the game, Gerald C. Rivers).
Throughout the film, the game details and the thought that’s been put into the world is really impressive, but Wreck-It Ralph is just a bit short of greatness because the story is not strong enough to feel really immersive, and the script is just a little light.
Ralph and his new friend Vanellope are lovable characters–Silverman is, in fact, pretty much the star of the film at times–but, the film is rarely hilarious and more often just funny.
Wreck-It Ralph is cute, the film is briefly touching–it’s even a little bit exciting at times–but the film feels shallow, making it likable enough for most kids and some adults, but far from being truly heartfelt.
Generous nods are due to the stars–especially Silverman, Reilly, and both McBrayer and Jane Lynch, who voices the tough-as-nails Calhoun from Hero’s Duty–and the film’s art direction for capturing so many vivid game worlds, but even with the great John Lasseter executive producing Wreck-It Ralph, you’re more likely to walk out of the film and call it sweet or cute, rather comparing it to Lasseter’s best work on films like Toy Story 2.
As a side note, I have to say that the opening short called Paperman is exceptionally cute and well-made. Big credit is due for this skillfully rendered short that packs a lot of heart in a short amount of time.