Should non-gamers see Wreck-It Ralph?
A guest review disguised as an idiotic question.
Wreck-It Ralph is a video game character. Or rather, he's a video game villain. He's the bad guy in an arcade game called Fix-It Felix, Jr. He's the Donkey Kong to Felix's Mario; except, not that lucky, because while the giant ape had that 1981 game named after him, Ralph has virtually nothing.
There's no fun to be found in being tossed over and over in mud, no respect from his co-workers and no medal to show for it all. Ralph is bored, and wishes he could be a hero.
In the months leading up to the release of this film one of the main concerns was: "Are non-gamers gonna get it?"
Now, I'm not a non-gamer, but I can still offer my best guess on the matter. And here it is:
Not so fast!
You wouldn't want me to rush an answer. Besides, before Wreck-It Ralph, if you're lucky (as I was), you'll be treated to Paperman, a fantastic short film directed by John Kahrs. A simple story, told in a touching way. The animation is beautiful and utterly unique. The short is only seven minutes long, but you still care, you're still involved. You believe in the characters, and you definitely want a happy ending. All in all, Paperman is a must see.
Now, let's get back to the arcade...
The Game is on!
This film is full of nods to actual video games. I won't lie, there are a lot of them. From the worlds of Pac-Man, Sonic the Hedgehog, Mario and more; there's even one from my favourite video game saga, Metal Gear Solid. This is truly a gamer-heaven of a movie.
So, is it not too much? Isn't Disney falling here in the pop-culture-jokes trap that DreamWorks have been, successfully, trying to get out of for the last couple of years? Are these video game nods a stupid mistake? Well, there are two answers to that. And here they are:
Wait a minute!
I totally forgot to talk about the characters. I'm about halfway into my review and I haven't even mentioned Vanellope von Schweetz, whose relationship with Ralph is the emotional core of the film. What a jackass am I? (Don't answer that in the comments, I think you'd hurt my feelings.)
So, Vanellope lives in Sugar Rush, but she's a glitch. She shouldn't be in the game. Everyone in Sugar Rush despises her, which is one of the things that makes Ralph relate to her. The connection between those two characters is so strong that I found myself shedding a tear more than once. For both sad and happy reasons.
There are also Fit-It Felix, Jr., Sergeant Calhoun, and a real villain. But let's not talk about them too much, it would spoil some of the fun.
Back to our problem, yes?
There it is. My first answer to the question "Are these video game nods a stupid mistake?" is no. It's not stupid, because it's not just there randomly. It doesn't feel like what DreamWorks (sorry DreamWorks) used to do. Which was bringing a 21st century nod to a medieval, ogre-filled story - yes, I am looking at you Shrek and Justin Timberlake. That kind of thing felt out of place, and was downright stupid.
Whereas here, it's only natural to have jokes about famous video game characters. It's a video game world, after all! Of course you meet Bowser, Robotnik or Ken Masters; of course Sonic loses rings when he's hit by something; of course Pac-Man is a cherry-chasing dot-muncher. So, that's my first answer to the question "Are these video game nods a stupid mistake?": It's not stupid. It's just logical.
But there is another answer. Let's see what it is, right now!
You shall not pass!
I'm just messing with you. Proceed.
My second answer is also no. I've already stated that no, it's not Timberlake-stupid. Now, what I'm saying is that no, it's not a mistake, because it's not a disaster if you don't get it. The film does not linger too long on the jokes. Before you even start to think about the nod, the story has moved on. So it doesn't matter if you get it or not, because these little bonuses come and go in a flash, and if you catch them, good; if you don't, you probably didn't even notice there was something to catch.
What's important here is the story. The beautiful friendship story. The way everything in the script pays off.
You can also appreciate the wonderful words designed by the Disney artists. The diversity of it, the crazy and funny visual ideas, the amazing animation, the top-notch voice talent...
Let's just say that while Wreck-It Ralph has its minor flaws, there is enough wonder in this film to make you happy, whether you play video games or not. I'm not a hardcore gamer myself, and there are certainly nods that I missed, but that didn't stop me from loving Wreck-It Ralph. And I think it shouldn't stop anybody else going to see it either.
My take on Wreck-It Ralph, in the end, is that it's a beautifully crafted movie, an almost perfect combo of fun, drama, twists and great characters. It's my personal favourite animated film in a year full of great animated films (The Pirates!, Brave, ParaNorman, Frankenweenie, Rise of the Guardians, to name just a few...).
It's about the main characters first, and the video game culture references shouldn't worry anybody; as long as you care about a solid storyline, and if you want to have a lot of fun, you should go see this film.
Wreck-It Ralph left me with a big smile and wanting more. Continue?
Thanks to Damien for this great review, we look forward to sharing future reviews of his with you. Be sure to follow him on Twitter, and thanks, as always, for visiting A113Animation!
Wreck-It Ralph is finally released in UK cinemas on 8th February, 2013.