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I immediately want a sequel to Wreck-It Ralph. It’s not that it ends with a big cliffhanger, has unresolved storylines or too much story for one film – it’s that the world created in the movie is so utterly fascinating that I desperately want to see what other kind of amazing, creative tales can be told within it.
The storyline on the surface of the new animated film – which is the 52nd title made by Walt Disney Animation Studios – is a simple one of a villain seeking redemption, a staple of drama for centuries. But director Rich Moore’s debut is such a stand out thanks to its stunning mix of humor, ingenuity, creativity, nostalgia and heart. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
Even without the central storyline, the layered universe created for the movie is breathtaking, both in theory and execution. The film all takes place within a single arcade, but finds all of the video game cabinets within connected through a power strip – known within the world as Game Central Station. This setup allows characters from the different games to not only interact and mingle – providing some great opportunities for classic video game cameos like Sonic The Hedgehog, the cast of Street Fighter and the little guys from Q*bert – but, more importantly, gives the filmmakers the amazing opportunity to share completely different gaming experiences with the audience. Though we only see Ralph (voiced by the brilliant John C. Reilly) hop through three games as he quests to become a hero – his home game, the 8-bit “Fix It Felix Jr,” the candy-coated racing game “Sugar Rush,” and the space marine adventure “Hero’s Duty,” – all three are marvelously distinct and well-crafted. Each one has its own style, tone and character design, but at no point do any of them clash or fight each other – instead they all come together playfully and make for great moments, be it Ralph panicking about the amount of violence in “Hero’s Duty,” or the funny romantic bond created between the always optimistic Felix (Jack McBrayer) and the always-on-alert alien fighter Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch).
Like all really truly great animated films, the movie also plays just as well for younger audiences as it will adults. The humor can be a little sophomoric at times – such as the run that the Sarah Silverman-voiced Vanellope von Schweetz about goes on about “Hero’s Doodie” – but for the most part it’s whip smart and laugh-out-loud clever (not wanting to “hit a guy with glasses,” Ralph removes the glasses from a character’s head and hits him over the head with them). The actors are all perfectly cast to the point that even if you recognize the voices they simply disappear into the people they’re playing. Special notice also must be given to Alan Tudyk, who does a spot-on Ed Wynn impression for the voice of King Candy (the ruler of “Sugar Rush”) and steals every scene he’s in.
As fun and ridiculous as Wreck-It Ralph is, it's held together with a wonderful amount of heart. Ralph, who can’t get any love in “Fix It Felix Jr” because of his villainous past, and Vanellope, who is regarded as an outsider and a glitch within “Sugar Rush,” have a truly beautiful non-romantic relationship that is not just cute and real, but also impressive and important – built on understanding and both mutual and self-acceptance. It takes Wreck-It Ralph from an adventurous, inventive film to one of the best animated features in recent memory.
Video games have never had much success at the movies, from the legendary failure known as Super Mario Bros. in 1993 to the half-assed action flicks like Max Payne and Hitman that have come out over the last few years, but Wreck-It Ralph may actually expose exactly what’s wrong with those movies: the world of games is so fascinating, but all of those previous titles reject it in favor of a cinematic approach, stripping away everything special about the original medium. Ralph, however, fully embraces it. The results are fun and amazing, and I can’t wait to see more.
For our To 3D or not to 3D guide to Wreck-It Ralph, go Here.