Influenced heavily by Toy Story and Monsters, Inc., which are good sources to emulate, the new Disney 3-D animation Wreck-It Ralph is a story about computer game characters and their mundane lives inside and outside their games. I was expected to be bored out of my brains,to be honest, instead I was thoroughly entertained. Thanks, director Rich Moore (The Simpsons, Futurama) – you have done it again!
Wreck-It Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly) is depressed about being the bad guy who smashes buildings all day long for no apparent reason at all but to be repaired by the goody-goody Fix-It Felix (Jack McBrayer) who gets a hot pie at the end of the day from the grateful Nicelanders. The Hulk-like Ralph is ignored at best; he doesn’t even get invited to a 30-year anniversary party of the game, not to mention the fact his home is a dump.
He tries to find understanding at a support group where a zombie growls he wants more from life (genius scene), but when that desperate attempt fails, he has to flee the monotony of his existence to a cool shoot-em-up game called Hero’s Duty where he meets Sgt. Calhoun (wee-your-pants-hilarious Jane Lynch) and a couple of adventures (and references to Alien) later he ends up in colourful candy land game Sugar Rush. There King Candy (Alan Tudyk) rules over his subjects, including the glitching pariah Vanellope von Schweetz (very funny Sarah Silverman) who soon becomes close to fellow outcast Wreck-It Ralph, helping him find meaning in life, and so on and so forth.
The screenplay by Phil Johnston and Jennifer Lee then covers the familiar territory of Disney classics with chases, hurdles, dangers, and the inevitable happy end (time for a nap, parents). At the same time there is plenty here for the parents to enjoy in the first half of the animation (which the kids will definitely miss).
The wonderful pixilation of characters and their computerized environment, the vibrant colors of the games and the jerks, twitches and glitches of the characters do help to submerge the viewer into a new yet familiar universe of computer games, big and small, new and old. The connection to the human world can be stretched as far as you like; in a sense we too are “programmed” with a back-story, live in determined circumstances (to a point), and report to our respective Game Central Stations at the end of the day. (This is a cool subject for an expert in social informatics, a science that studies the effects of computerization on society as well as the way we “computerize” the world human-fashion).
Overall, Wreck-It Ralph shows the possible future directions of animation, what with all the inevitable connections to games, toys, apps and other merchandise (I was shocked to learn there is no Wreck-It Ralph app in Google Playstore. Really? The games from the film can be played on the Disney website, if desired, but that’s so retro).
The 2-Disk Blu-ray combo pack of Wreck-It Ralph consists of a Blu-ray copy in 1080p 2D, framed at 2.35:1, and a DVD copy of the film. Both options look wonderful. The 2D version is an excellent way to present CG animation, with the many game universes presenting their own stylistic differences in terms of picture and sound. The Fix it Felix Jr channels retro, simple fun, muted colors, clean images; Hero’s Duty is portraying a dystopian setting with a limited color scheme, post-apocalyptic landscape, spooky atmosphere, and awe-inspiring effects; Sugar Rush is a feast of colors and shapes inspired by candy and cakes. The image is bright and crisp throughout without any of the problems that are apparent on the DVD copy (some blocking issues in the Sugar Rush sequences).
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound is a great experience that emerges the viewers into the game world with detailed computer-game sound effects the audience knows so well. The track changes from location to location to simulate those different environments perfectly, from the simplicity of Fix it Felix Jr and the disaster movie effects in Hero’s Duty (monster sounds, laser beams, creepy soundtrack, etc.) to the girly but dynamic Sugar Rush with the pivotal racing scene, where cool sound effects abound. The “authentic” sounds are mixed with electronics to detect movements of characters and their environment, which blend perfectly together to depict various cyber worlds, and contrast the “real” world (Game Central station) to the world of the games.
“Bit by Bit: Creating the Worlds of Wreck-It Ralph” is a journey into the fictional worlds of this fun animation that the viewers take with the artists who created them.
“Alternate & Deleted Scenes” contains four additional scenes that also include optional commentary from Moore.
“Video Game Commercials” is a collection of commercials shot to promote the games from Wreck-It Ralph.
“Paperman” is a touching Oscar-winning short from Disney, a story of a young office worker who tries to catch the attention of the dream girl in a skyscraper next to his in a romantic, beautiful way.
Verdict: Wreck-It Ralph has the spirit of a child, able to breathe life into a lifeless piece of cheap plastic toy or a bunch of colored pixels jumping on a computer screen. It lost the Oscar to equally excellent Brave, but is still a must-see for everyone who loves animation.