Movie review: Does 'Wreck-It Ralph' really reward '80s fans?
These days, animated movies -- in our day we just called them cartoons -- will go to any length to attract both the kids and adults to the box office. So color me totally not shocked to hear about Wreck-It Ralph, a new CARTOON that bases itself in a fictional, 30-year-old video game. My inner geek wants to see it; but the 45-year-old inside me says I'd be happier at home and $15 richer. So I was happy to allow Stuck in the '80s companion Tina D. to review the movie for me. Here's her review.
On Saturday night, I took a pack of middle schoolers to see Wreck-It Ralph in 3-D.
As the kids scurried to their seats in the very back of the theater, I made my way to the center of the front isle of the upper deck. You know, the one with the rails so you can put your feet up. I sat alone, eager to rendezvous with some of our favorite characters as an official member of the first video game generation. Ready to be transported back to my youth, where I commanded a Donkey Kong table for hours on a single quarter.
Much to my surprise, this '80s girl found the film's modern storylines more familiar than its nostalgic roots. Such as watching yet another 30th anniversary of something beloved, wondering if we should still be sleeping on bricks after all these years, seeking self actualization, shrouded in underlying fear of becoming obsolete. In this film, for me (being from the '80s nation), today resonates more than the occasional glimpse of the old Pac-Man console from the rearview mirror, which the film uses more sparingly than anticipated.
The movie starts with Wreck-It Ralph, frustrated by his role and longing for something more. He wanted to belong. To be appreciated. To be accepted. After trying traditional routes, including a funny stint in a Bad Guys Anon meeting only to cumulate to a more passive-aggressive confrontation at the 30th Anniversary party in the very building he wrecks day in and day out, Ralph decides to take matters int his own giant, forboding hands.
He will do something that no bad guy could ever do: He will win a medal.
As described by the townspeople, winning a medal was the key to all that Wreck-It Ralph desired. So, he left the video game that he had called home for three decades. Risking everything, including death (when you get killed outside of your game, it is for real). His journey ultimately brings him, medal in tow, to a bitter-sweet jaunt through a land of candy. I enjoyed the juxtaposition between the yucky and the sweet throughout the scenes in Candy Rush, where nothing is as it seems. A place where good is bad, wrong is right, and even the truth is a lie.
Through it all, Ralph finds an unlikely friend in Vanellope, a charming and quirky girl who much like him, believes that she must win the race in order to play the game. They live parallel lives and strive for the same self-actualization that will ultimately set them free.
The casting of Jack McBrayer (recently known from his role on NBC's 30 Rock) as Fix-It Felix Jr., of the video game Fix-It Felix Jr. and Jane Lynch (Coach Sylvester of Glee fame) as Sargeant Calhoun, the take-no-prisoners leader from Hero's Duty, was exceptional. McBrayer is brilliant when creating awkward tension as Ralph attempts to crash the 30th Anniversary party, and is priceless as he falls for the "high definition" Sargeant Calhoun. And Lynch shines in a role seemingly written expressly for her. However, they lose me a bit at the end, when Fix-It Felix Jr. and Calhoun fall in love. Sorry, but the NBC Page from 30 Rock marrying Coach Sylvester does not compute.
John C. Riley voices Wreck-It Ralph with wit and charm. He delivers the last line with such perfection that there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Sarah Silverman was charming and inviting as the ever-glitchy, wide-eyed Vanellope von Schweetz, a 9-year-old race car driving princess with a knack for knick-names and perfect timing. Together, their chemistry was magical.
And while I never really got Q-Bert then -- and certainly didn't relate to his unplugged version now -- I must give the film's writers credit for acknowledging this very thing in the clever dialogue between Fix-It Felix Jr. and Q-Bert. In that moment, I started to understand our common bond and it made me smile. Producers even build in cameos for some of our unplugged faves of yesteryear, making the video game a modern day fave.
And I find myself accepting my place in the front row of the theater, feet high on the railings. This new vantage point gives me a great view of you, my friend. From here, I can see what we share and how we belong.