Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
Featuring the voices of John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Jane Lynch, and Alan Tudyk
Directed by Rich Moore
Because of that, I was a bit hesitant going into Wreck-It Ralph which, in its previews, was certainly priding itself on bringing together a vast array of characters from video games. To me, that meant nothing and I admittedly doubted the film's ability to connect with me. Much to my surprise, after a very amusing intro that plays as a Who's Who of '80s and '90s video game characters (but still amused to this non-player), the film shifts into its own storyline that proves to be more heartwarming and humorous than I expected.
Ralph (John C. Reilly) is fed up with being labeled a bad guy. Day in and day out, he finds himself continually demolishing an apartment complex in his game Fix-It Felix, Jr., but Felix (Jack McBrayer) and the apartment dwellers in the game don't want anything to do with Ralph after the arcade closes forcing him to mope in a junkyard he created himself. Fed up with a lack of friends and being constantly looked down upon, Ralph decides to game jump into a first-person actioner name Hero's Duty where he meets the gritty and tough Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch) who soon realizes that Ralph, despite being disguised in an army uniform, is not meant to be in her game. However, Ralph discovers that winning Hero's Duty yields a medal which he feels will show the characters in his game that he is worth something. Unfortunately, a series of events manages to land Ralph the medal, but also put him into a racing game named Sugar Rush where he meets the precociously obnoxious Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) who finds herself in a similar predicament to Ralph in that no one in her game (including the goofy King Candy [Alan Tudyk]) wants her around either. Ralph and Vanellope mutually connect because of their problems and together decide to do their best to earn the respect of their peers.
Surprisingly, Wreck-It Ralph is much more emotionally engaging than its "video game" concept would lead you to believe (but maybe my mindset of games being hard-edged and lacking warmth is ill-conceived). The connection that Ralph and Vanellope form is perfectly pleasant and despite their noticeable differences in age, appearance, and demeanor, the two misfits' newfound friendship creates an emotional core that is hard to deny. It certainly helps that John C. Reilly absolutely nails the depressed tone with which his titled character is burdened creating a top notch vocal performance that rivals the best we've seen before. Jane Lynch and Jack McBrayer aren't necessarily doing anything different than what we've come to expect from them, but their tones fit their characters to a tee.
The film's problem spot comes sporadically from Sarah Silverman who, admittedly, has a persona in real life that I cannot stand (or at least can only stand in small, limited amounts like in this video). Here, her voice is a good fit for the annoying character of Vannelope, but it does grate at moments. However, I will say that I'm not entirely certain that it's her fault. The character was written as a bit of an obnoxious brat (albeit, a brat who simply wants to be loved), but when Vannelope stoops to incessant name-calling and foot-stomping pouting, it makes Wreck-It Ralph a little less timeless to me than other Disney movies.
Still, Wreck-It Ralph is certainly one of the best animated films of the year. In terms of animation, this is Disney at the top of its game, rivaling Pixar in terms of beautiful images and clever design. [I loved how some of the old school video game characters were animated with a choppy motion...rather ingenious.] At this point, it's in a close battle with Paranorman for the top spot in that category, but I'm going to refrain complete judgment until my end of 2012 round-up rolls around (and as everyone knows, that likely won't be until mid-2013...so I have plenty of time).
The RyMickey Rating: B+